Kasambahay Law: Boon or Bane?

The provisions of the Kasambahay Law (R.A. 10381) and its accompanying Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) constitute a boon for several government entities apparently looking for ways to improve their coffers, a questionable boon for domestic workers, and definitely a bane for employers of these domestic workers, most of whom are themselves mere employees or struggling entrepreneurs. Most definitely it is a boon to our brilliant lawmakers who without considering the difficulties of its implementation, have passed it as a great political statement that indeed they are for the poor, and do vote for us next election.

Are kasambahays voters? Most of them I believe are not. Are harassed housewives employing kasambahays voters? Many of them are, and I wonder if they are happy with the author of that law, which constitutes a heavy burden on them. This burden of course is something the honorable author of that bill would never feel, especially since he is not one struggling to make ends meet, and as he most likely has pork against which to dip to pay for his maids, gardeners, drivers, etc.

Of course, the law obviously is intended to protect house workers from being exploited or from harm. But I seriously doubt if most kasambahays are treated shamefully. Culturally, Filipino employers, who are called "ate" or "kuya," treat their househelp like members of the family, and tell their children to likewise call their yayas by the respectful title of "ate" also. They bring their help along on trips out of town, seat them with the family when they eat out and some do even in their home. Filipino families, especially the middle class and the slightly lower middle class, know the value of their kasambahays to whom they leave charge of their homes and children, when they themselves are struggling on salaries that barely cover their mortgages, school expenses for their children, the cost of transportation and daily subsistence what with prices of food and commodities moving inexorably higher each time they go to market or to the groceries, notwithstanding press releases that inflation is "contained."

The law is unjust to the heavily burdened middle class in terms of the additional expenses that have been laid on their shoulders - SSS contributions, PagIBIG and Philhealth, which of course would go up proportionately as they increase the wages of their househelp, which many of them do every year in appreciation for the services rendered their families. What is worse, is that they have to themselves go to these bureaucracy-laden government agencies to register their househelp, thus missing at least three days, one for each agency, of work themselves. Try going to any of these agencies and see if you can get anything done in an hour - you need to take a leave for each of these tasks that the law imposes on them. This is not to mention the bureaucratic requirement for regular reports that have to be submitted!

The prescription for minimum wage for the kasambahay differs from area to area, but if you ask any employer, especially those in Metro Manila, they give wages higher than that prescribed. The additional cost to them for SSS, Philhealth and Pagibig which they must shoulder is unfair - employees in offices or factories are deducted for those and the employer only pays a share. Indeed, some families may opt to reduce the number of help they have, or do without altogether. So where is the boon to those who have no other skills to offer.

Another problem many kasambahay employers have to contend with is that most of them get their maids through employment agencies which charge fantastic fees with a promise for one replacement if the one they provide does not fulfil her contract, who leave after a month or even less with flimsy excuses, which agencies deploy to another unknowing employer. The one replacement is the only solace an employer has, except, guess what: The replacement also leaves after a short while, and thus no more replacement, pay a new fee if you need another one. I sometimes have wondered whether there is some kind of understanding or collusion between the agencies and the helpers they deploy. I also think that it should be the duty of the employment agency, considering the hefty fees they charge, to make sure that the maids they deploy already have memberships in those government agencies, so that at least the employer need be faced only with the payments. This should have been provided in the law or the IRR.

But assuming that indeed, the employer gets a jewel who stays with them, who feels a part of the family - is she happy about the provision about a weekly day off, that she works for only 8 hours and more than that must get "overtime"? How do you measure the number of hours that the kasambahay renders - the regulation apparently forbids making them work very early - but their employers themselves have to go to work (most of whom have to commute, since they don't have government-issued vehicles and drivers), have to send their children to school, and so preparing breakfast and "baon" have to be done pretty early. What constitutes "overtime"? Housework cannot be measured like work in an office or factory which have set hours of work...housework is done in batches...morning preparations, cleaning, and cooking, with moments, even hours in between to rest or even take a siesta until it's time again to prepare for dinner. As for the weekly day off, I know that most maids do not like to go out every week - "gastos" they say, and they would rather stay at home where they are sure to have food and lodging at no additional cost to them. They normally prefer a vacation of about two or three weeks, for which they save part of their wages, and if indeed they have been loyal and trustworthy, they are usually allowed paid vacations.

Boon or bane? This to my mind is again another example of laws that are passed without proper consultation with all those who would be affected, especially the employers of kasambahay, as well as it has been passed and approved without the proper assistance to employers in the matter of the bureaucratic things they have to endure.