The “Kasambahay” bill has inched closer to becoming a law after the bicameral conference committee on Tuesday managed to reconcile conflicting provisions, particularly on wage rates.
In a third and final meeting that lasted five hours, representatives of the Senate and the House of Representatives agreed on a “hybrid” formula setting the minimum salary for house help in Metro Manila at P2,500.
The amount would be pegged at P2,000 for helpers in chartered and first-class municipalities, and P1,500 for those situated in other towns, according to Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara, a coauthor of the House version.
To satisfy the House contingent, the committee agreed to allow the regional wage boards to review and determine the salary rates.
But consistent with the law against diminution of benefits, the minimum wage set on the first year would not be decreased, Angara said.
“We are hopeful that this landmark piece of legislation for 2 million kasambahay can be signed into law by President Aquino before the year ends,” he said. “This would be a perfect Christmas present to our hardworking helpers.”
Angara said the conference committee, led by Rep. Emil Ong for the House and Senate President Pro Tempore Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada for the Senate, began deliberating on conflicting provisions of the bill at around 8 p.m. on Monday. The committee completed its work five hours later.
Angara said the committee report was expected to be ratified by both chambers by next week. The reconciled version of the bill will then be sent to President Aquino for signing.
SSS, PhilHealth, Pag-Ibig
A key provision would allow membership in the Social Security System, Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth), and Pag-Ibig Fund.
Employers are to take care of premium payments for helpers earning less than P5,000 monthly. Those with a monthly take-home pay of P5,000 or more would share premium payments with their employers for SSS and Pag-Ibig. Employers would still fully shoulder PhilHealth payments, in this case.
The bill also seeks to provide an opportunity for house help to complete “basic education, higher education, technical and vocational training, or other alternative learning systems,” Angara said.
“We’ve agreed that employers should adjust the work schedule of the domestic worker to allow such access to education or training without hampering the services required by the employer,” he said.
“This is a great way of opening up opportunities for helpers to finish schooling and explore other employment options.”
Angara said the bill would bar employees from “placing their helpers under debt bondage (and) from hiring minors below 15 years (old).”
Vacation, 13th-month pay
Helpers who have completed a year’s work would be entitled to an annual service leave of five days and a 13th-month pay, he added.
Estrada, who earlier proposed a minimum P3,000 monthly for kasambahay in Metro Manila, said the new rates were regarded as “affordable and reasonable” and were based on the “total income of a middle-class household and its employed members.”
“We are not preventing well-off employers from paying much higher wages to their household helpers. We just want to give kasambahay what is due them,” he said.
Currently, Article 143 of the Labor Code pegs the monthly wage of Metro Manila at P800, those in “highly urbanized areas” at P650 and in other municipalities, P550. With a report from Cathy C. Yamsuan