Household workers should pay their own phone bills

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Persida Acosta

Persida Acosta

Dear PAO,
My aunt is working as a household helper. Recently, her family in the province had a problem so she has been in constant communication with them. Since she does not have her own mobile phone, she made use of the landline telephone of her employer. Regrettably, she did not ask permission from her employer and the telephone bill escalated. Now, her employer is demanding from her to pay the bill that accrued to her benefit through monthly installment salary deduction. Is this legal? Don’t household helpers have the right to communicate with their family? Additionally, I believe that employers are not allowed to interfere as to how helpers will use their salaries, am I right? I hope you can advise us. Thank you and more power.
Maritess

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Dear Maritess,
You are correct in saying that employers are prohibited from interfering as to how household helpers will make use of their salaries. Nevertheless, such prohibition extends only insofar as compelling helpers to buy properties of the employer or some other persons. This is explicitly provided for under Republic Act (R.A.) No. 10361, otherwise known as the “Domestic Workers Act” or “Batas Kasambahay” which states that: “Section 27. Prohibition on Interference in the Disposal of Wages. – It shall be unlawful for the employer to interfere with the freedom of any domestic worker to dispose of the latter’s wages. The employer shall not force, compel or oblige the domestic worker to purchase merchandise, commodities or other properties from the employer or from any other person, or otherwise make use of any store or services of such employer or any other person.”

In the situation that you have presented before us, it does not appear that the employer of your aunt is compelling her to buy a product or property of the former. What is being required of her by her employer is to pay what she has consumed by using her employer’s landline telephone.

We want to emphasize that this does not, in any way, infringe on the right of the household helper to communicate with his or her family. But we have to take note that even such right is regulated and a degree of safeguard is afforded to household employers insofar as the use of the helper of his or her telephone or other communication facilities. This is clear from the provisions of Section 8 of R. A. No. 10361, “The employer shall grant the domestic worker access to outside communication during free time: Provided, That in case of emergency, access to communication shall be granted even during work time. Should the domestic worker make use of the employer’s telephone or other communication facilities, the costs shall be borne by the domestic worker, unless such charges are waived by the employer.”

Since there is no showing that the employer of your aunt has waived the charges which accrued by your aunt’s use of her telephone to communicate with her family in the province, the costs thereof must be borne by your aunt.

We hope that we were able to answer your queries. Please be reminded that this advice is based solely on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same.

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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