The Kasambahay Law, apparently now in force, has to be explained to the public concerned since virtually more than half of the population have domestic helpers in their employ. And not all of these employers are on the upper end of society but include the bulk of the middle class and even some lower class members of our society. Specifically, those who work outside their homes, those who need help in running their families because of illness, children, absence for long periods or day-to-day living with need of domestic service.
In the first place many of them are not aware of this new law and much less what it entails for them. Those who know about it are at a loss for its not being clear and well-explained. Apparently, a contract is required with each domestic helper, a limit of 8 hours work a day is specified and a general registration of all domestic helpers. While this law is new, it enforces (upon registration of helpers by employer) an older law dating back to 1993 where fixed minimum wages were set for domestic helpers. So, if since 1993 these minimums were not paid, they will have to be paid now in back wages or fines. Even that is not clear.
And here we come to a very common occurrence. That of employers who may not quite comply with the minimum wage since 1993 but have given much in kind to the employee. Usually, in the form of medical assistance to the family in an emergency or to the domestic worker in time of illness. We all know that these are a pretty penny. Include here sending the domestic helper’s children to school which is more than a pretty penny in itself. Will these advances/compenstion in kind not be considered when going back to 1993 to check if the minimum wage has been paid? In fairness, I think these should be consdered.
Even the contract has to be explained. There is a template which I hear can be downloaded but it is not self-explanatory, specially for the majority of employers, housewives most of them, or people with a shaky understanding of the language the law is written, or even the legalese that comes with any law.
Considering that the Kasambahay law covers so many all over the archipelago, it is not enough to put out the implementing rules and regulations which I suppose may be downloaded if you have access to a computer. Where else are they? If it is in the Department of Labor or with the Locag Government that is not near enough for accessibility for those concerned.
In truth, there is much uncertainty about it that I suggest a full campaign of explanation and other aids to implementation for the public. A question and answer pamphlet, for example, where questions may be asked and clear answers given, should go a long way towards helping if distributed into the barangays. Otherwise, many are oblivious to the law or to how to comply with it.
There should also be a provision regarding what the employer gives or has given to the domestic helper that can be quantified in monetary terms and taken into account when looking for past compliance of the minimum wage.
Another factor to consider is how middle class employees who hire domestic helpers can comply with the eight hour limit of working hours. It seems quite impractical to count continuously from early morning to late afternoon without making a provision to take into consideration that there are some hours of no work after the initial housekeeping has been done. A hosue is not a factory of continous labor. It would be beyond the capacity of employed people in mid-level jobs or lower to pay overtime. This may even cause a loss of employment for the domestic helpers concerned on the grounds that they are now unaffordable to the employer.
I agree that the Kasambahay law is a positive labor improvement whose time has long been in coming. But it would be best to have maximum complaance and understanding by making the effort to explain, take its seeming rough edges into consideration so as to make them fair and clear. It is a communications exercise and I hope the Department of Labor and the Local Governments who are directly involved together with the Social Security Service, Philippine Health Corporation and Pag-Ibig will take it seriously.