For love of our kasambahays: Ate, Kuya, Manong and Yaya

Aneth Ng-Lim

Posted at Apr 19 2021 04:14 PM

Now that COVID-19 case counts have gone from infecting individuals to households, there are incidental victims that need our collective support – they are our Ates, our Kuyas, our Manongs and our Yayas.

Just in the last month, I personally knew of several families who were infected and their live-in household helpers also tested positive of COVID-19. 

When Darren tested positive, his wife soon followed and their two children were left in the care of their Yaya. Soon after, Yaya also tested positive but fortunately her symptoms were mild and she recovered at home.

In the case of Tess, she suspects she was infected at work when her assistant fell ill but chose to still come to work and did not have herself tested. Tess started to lose her sense of smell and then had a clogged nose. After she tested positive, she isolated herself at home. Unfortunately, by then one of her kids had caught the virus, and so did one of the household help. They are all recovering at home and was able to skip hospital care.

With Jed, his whole family fell ill but the test results came back negative for them. They included Ate in their tests and hers was positive. The barangay arranged with an ambulance to pick her up, and they agreed she will isolate and recover in her home province.

It’s possible that Ate and Yaya caught it from their employers, but they could also be the source of infection as most families who largely stay at home depend on their domestic workers to go out and run errands for them. Every time they step out of your homes, you put them at risk so the least we can do is ensure they are compensated fairly now and protected for in the future. Here are recommendations for you to take better care of Ate, Kuya, Manong and Yaya.

#1 Read up on Republic Act 10361 or the Kasambahay Law.

This landmark piece of legislation signed back in 2013 recognized domestic workers for the first time as similar to those employed in the formal sector, outlining their rights. Check the website of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) here for the implementing rules and regulations to see if you are complying with all of them. The law covers any person engaged in domestic work within an employment relationship and includes household helpers or the Ates, nannies or Yayas, cooks, those who do your laundry, even gardeners. Family drivers are not covered, but many households chose to also consider them as kasambahay and accorded them the same privileges.

#2 Pay them fair wage or more.

Most families hired their household help without the use of placement agencies who would negotiate fair wages. In these cases, some may be paying more or less than what the law requires. Check the April 2021 guidelines released by the National Wages and Productivity Commission here. You will find that they set the minimum wage per region, which means you set the ceiling. When it comes to live-in domestic workers that make our lives so much easier, the rule is to always pay more than less.

#3 Sign them up for Social Security.

While we would like our domestic helpers to stay with us as long as possible, we need to accept that at some point they have to move on and live their lives. Having Social Security cushion will be good for them as it will give them access to benefits such as access to loans, sickness and maternity benefits, even retirement pension if they meet the 120 months contribution required. That lifetime pension will surely be welcome in their golden years.

Click here for the contribution table that is set according to how much you pay your domestic workers. If they are paid less than P5,000, employers have to pay the contribution in full. If their salary is P5,000 or more, you can collect their share, or why not consider it their monthly bonus. 

Many kasambahay want to receive their salaries in full and inform their employers to skip Social Security benefits. Note that you will be violating the law in this case, so a better option is to help them with the monthly contribution which are very reasonable amounts.

#4 PhilHealth a must even without a pandemic.

We don’t need COVID-19 to remind us that health care is expensive. If your wallet can feel the pain, then so much more the domestic workers who earn a small fraction of the take-home pay of employees from private firms and public institutions. PhilHealth is one of 3 mandatory contributions for domestic workers under the Kasambahay Law and the P300 monthly should be borne in full by the employer.

#5 Forced savings with Pag-IBIG Fund.

Of the 3 mandatory contributions, Pag-IBIG Fund is the lowest cost at P200 monthly – with P100 coming from the employer and the other P100 from the employee. Again, you may choose to pay the full share of premiums without deducting it from their salaries. But remember that for all 3 – SSS, PhilHealth and Pag-IBIG Fund, the responsibility to deposit the contributions fall on you or the employer.

With Pag-IBIG Fund, your domestic workers are building a rainy day fund which they can access in their retirement years, or access a loan any time after they have completed 24 months of contributions.

A shout out to Ates, Kuyas, Manongs and Yayas: if your employers are not paying you right or not providing the benefits you are entitled to, this is a good time to remind them. If they do not take action, you may file a complaint with DOLE 24/7 hotline by dialing 1349.

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Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.