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COVID-19 no reason to fire household workers - OSHC

Mayen Jaymalin (The Philippine Star) - January 20, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Contracting COVID-19 does not constitute grounds to terminate household service workers (HSWs) or “kasambahay,” according to the Occupational Safety and Health Center (OSHC).

Dr. Reynaldo Sta. Ana, OSHC health officer, said in a virtual briefing on Monday that “illness is not enough reason for the termination of a kasambahay’s services.” He cited diseases such as COVID-19, tuberculosis, HIV and hepatitis B.

He said employers should have compassion by referring their HSWs and helping them gain access to medical facilities for treatment.

Under the Department of Labor and Employment and Department of Trade and Industry (DOLE-DTI) guidelines, Sta. Ana said employers are mandated to shoulder the cost of treatment and hospitalization of their kasambahay if they contract COVID-19.

Sta. Ana stressed that employers can only terminate a kasambahay if they are not performing their jobs properly or not treating members of the household well.

He said employers are also required to provide for personal protect equipment (PPEs) and other necessary measures against the virus.

Sta. Ana said employers should remind members of their household to implement minimum health standards to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

There are at least 1.3 million HSWs nationwide, based on a recent survey conducted by the Philippine Statistics Authority.

‘File complaints’

Meanwhile, DOLE Secretary Silvestre Bello III yesterday encouraged kasambahay who are not getting the right wages to file a complaint, saying the department will act swiftly.

He said DOLE has released new guidelines on the conduct of mandatory conferences, issuance of compliance orders and handling of labor disputes involving kasambahay.

Under the guidelines, Bello said complaints or requests for assistance shall be resolved through the Single Entry Approach (SEnA) within 30 days from the initial conduct of the proceedings.

Bello said depending on the preference and availability of the kasambahay and their employer, conferences may be done face-to-face while observing the prescribed minimum health standards and safety protocols or through digital platforms.

“Within 10 days after the termination of the mandatory conference, the hearing officer shall submit recommendation for the resolution of the case,” Bello noted.

The DOLE regional director is mandated to issue a compliance order within 10 days from submission of the case for resolution.

The compliance order shall contain the statement of evidence supporting the findings of monetary award as well as the directive to the employer to submit proof of compliance within 10 days from receipt of the compliance order.

The employer is given a period of 10 days from receiving the compliance order to pay the wage differential.

The compliance order, however, may be appealed to the DOLE secretary, who shall have 30 days from receipt of the entire record of the case to decide on the appeal.

Last year, DOLE recorded a total of 129 cases filed by kasambahays, with 62 percent disposed of in an average of 15 days.

DOLE also reported that 46 of the complaints were settled and led to the payment of monetary benefits amounting to over P550,000 to kasambahays.

Among the complaints were illegal termination, non-payment of salaries and other benefits, including 13th month pay.

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