The Philippine Senate passed on 13 December SB 78, the Kasambahay Bill. Kasambahay is a term that includes all household help e.g. maids, cooks, houseboys, yayas, and drivers. The bill requires that there be a written contractual agreement between the employer and kasambahay which shall state the ff: period of employment, monthly compensation, annual salary increase, duties and responsibilities, working hours and day-off schedule, and living quarters. The contract should be in a language that the kasambahay understands. The employers will also be required to pay premiums for their kasambahays in the Social Security System (SSS) and Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth).
Employers have to pay their kasambahays at least 2500 pesos in Metro Manila, 2000 pesos in cities and first class municipalities, and 1500 pesos elsewhere. The employer should also provide for adequate food, suitable living conditions, and whatever medicine and equipment their work requires.
The bill, when it is finally signed into law, will benefit about 2 million kasambahays all over the country.
Some people have expressed concerns that the price of employing kasambahays will then become “unaffordable” for some middle class families, resulting in unbearable “maidlessness” of those families. But when you look closer, these families mostly have their children going to private schools and they may own their own car. I think it is really a question of budgeting. A service as important as that of a maid deserves a decent salary. If those families feel that they can’t afford domestics, then that’s alright; not having maids is not the end of the world. I live in the Netherlands, and I have never experienced having maids. All it takes to cope is for the family to divide the tasks among themselves (meaning that the husband and children have household chores).
Providing a minimum level of compensation and ensuring good working conditions for kasambahays is quite important for the national economy and national development. It’s like the minimum wage law for other workers. It is a measure that ensures a decent level of living for workers. Otherwise it will be simply exploitation, which is the extraction of work from someone without the corresponding compensation.
Filipino families are often guilty of maltreating their kasambahays. Filipinos are among the worst employers of Filipino domestics abroad. This is because they bring their Philippine concepts on how to treat domestics with them. We may even maltreat our kasambahays without noticing it. The most common form of maltreatment is requiring them to work very long hours – very often, from 6 am till 10 pm. This is a terribly long work day. Don’t regular workers work only a maximum of 40 hours/week? Why do we require our kasambahays to work 96 hours a week (i.e. if they get a whole day off every week). Some kasambahays don’t even get free days, and this may mean not being able to go to their church, or ever visit their families.
And on top of all the maltreatment, many employers don’t even pay their kasambahays enough. I think this reflects more on the low esteem that they have for their kasambahays, than on a lack of cash.
Ensuring decent wages for kasambahays is part of the country’s economic and social development. Their wages are an important part of the income of their families. Society will also not develop that fast if there are workers who are extremely exploited. Much of the work that many kasambahays are required to do are not really that necessary; the family could do it themselves, actually. It is just that since the kasambahay is there after all, they let her do it. It is often not economically necessary work, and even results in spoiling the children of the employers. And, since kasambahays are cheap labor, they also get low social esteem. I mean, how many employers have ever visited the family of their kasambahay? Are the ashamed to do it? don’t have time? I think it is simply that the thought never even entered their mind.
It’s the House’s Turn
Now that the Senate has finally passed a Kasambahay Bill, it’s now the turn of the House of Representatives to pass it. It had passed one already in the year 2000, but the Senate then did not pass it also. So, I expect that this should not be that difficult to pass again, this time. It just has to be marked as a priority bill, and then it will surely pass.
Once it becomes law, it will then be a matter of implementing it. I don’t think that all employers will draft a working contract with their kasambahays the day after the bill is passed. But I think the practice of making a working contract, and paying minimum wages will gradually be more and more implemented. The bill will not solve everything for the kasambahays, but it will be a good start.