House helper’s day-off

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Persida Acosta

Dear PAO,
My husband and I are newlyweds who recently moved to a house of our own. Since we are both working, we plan on hiring a stay-in house helper who will clean the house. The house helper already agreed to work for us but insisted that she wants the Saturdays as her day-off, because she needs to attend church services on that day. We asked her to take the Sundays off instead because we might need her during Saturdays for any gathering that we might host in our new house. Is there any legal basis for us to insist that she should take Sundays off instead of Saturdays?
Mark and Ali

Dear Mark and Ali,
We regret to inform you that you have no legal basis to compel a house helper to take Sundays off. Section 21 of the Batas Kasambahay or Republic Act 10361 provides:

“SEC. 21. Weekly Rest Period. – The domestic worker shall be entitled to at least twenty-four (24) consecutive hours of rest in a week. The employer and the domestic worker shall agree in writing on the schedule of the weekly rest day of the domestic worker: Provided, That the employer shall respect the preference of the domestic worker as to the weekly rest day when such preference is based on religious grounds. Nothing in this provision shall deprive the domestic worker and the employer from agreeing to the following:
(a) Offsetting a day of absence with a particular rest day;
(b) Waiving a particular rest day in return for an equivalent daily rate of pay;
(c) Accumulating rest days not exceeding five (5) days; or
(d) Other similar arrangements.”
[Emphasis supplied.]

From the above, it is clear that the domestic helper or house helper is entitled to a minimum of twenty-four (24) hour rest each week and that the preference of the employee on which day to take that rest should be respected if it is based on religious grounds. Gleaning from your letter, it appears that the reason of the house helper is that she wants to attend church services, which is obviously a religious reason. Thus, you must respect her choice of day-off.

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This, however, does not mean that you are absolutely prohibited from asking your house helper from offsetting a day of absence with her rest day, waiving her rest day for an equivalent daily rate of pay or entering into any arrangement agreeable to both parties if you need her to work on a particular Saturday. We must emphasize, however, that any arrangement entered into between you and your helper should be voluntarily made by your helper.

We find it necessary to mention that this opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. The opinion may vary when the facts are changed or elaborated.

We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter.

Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to dearpao@manilatimes.net

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