Press Release
October 3, 2007

Senate OKs "freedom charter" for househelpers

The Senate has approved on second reading a bill establishing a "freedom charter" meant to improve the job conditions and uplift the quality of life of the country's more than 624,000 househelpers.

Under the proposed Magna Carta for Household Helpers, authored by Sen. Loren Legarda, all domestic staff would be expressly guaranteed the right to just and humane working as well as living conditions, among other freedoms.

The bill mandates that a notarized job contract would have to be executed by and between the employer and househelper before the start of any service. This would cover the specific job terms and conditions, including a provision for annual pay increases, indicating the amount mutually agreed and fixed by the parties.

Legarda credited her colleague, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, for his hard work in getting the bill approved. Estrada sponsored the bill on the Senate floor in his capacity as chair of the Senate committee on labor, employment and human resources.

Legarda is chair of the Senate social justice and rural development committee, which also endorsed the bill.

Under the bill, all househelpers would be entitled to statutory pay rates, a 13th month pay equal to one month's salary and mandatory coverage by the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (Philhealth), on top of existing protection by the Social Security System (SSS).

Househelpers would enjoy normal work hours not exceeding 10 hours every day. Any work they perform in excess would have to be paid extra. They would be entitled to at least eight hours of continuous rest every day, in addition to one-hour respites each for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Househelpers would also work not more than six consecutive days every week. They would be entitled to 14 days annual vacation leave with pay.

Under Legarda's bill, househelpers would likewise be entitled to basic necessities, including three full meals every day; adequate, private and safe sleeping quarters; as well as advances to cover work-related illnesses or injuries, subject to reimbursement by the SSS and Philhealth.

Legarda's bill also sets a comprehensive standard for the decent treatment of househelpers. Their mistreatment, such as the deprivation of basic necessities as punishment or disciplinary action, would be totally forbidden.

The bill likewise prohibits the employment of househelpers via sub-contracting; bans recruitment and finder's fees at the househelper's expense; and disallows bonded labor, or the use of future services as collateral for an advance extended to the househelper.

Househelpers would also enjoy the right to privacy of communications, as well as the right to freely get in touch with their families.

They would also be free to pursue their schooling, subject to flexible work schedule adjustments, without any pay reduction.

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