‘8 hours of continuous rest for FDHs’

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Foreign domestic workers hold a rally on September 9 to ask for regulated working hours, decent accommodation, and a minimum wage of $5,500.

TO better protect the welfare of Filipino domestic workers, the Philippine Consulate General (PCG) is now requiring employers included on its watchlist to sign an undertaking and “swear under oath” to provide “at least eight hours of continuous rest” and other benefits to their helper.

Labor Attache Nida Romulo said the employers on the watchlist would have to sign the undertaking if they want to hire another Filipino domestic worker.

“We want to promote the welfare and protection of our workers. So, for employers who are on the watchlist, they will have to sign the undertaking,” Romulo said in an interview.

“This is a reiteration of their obligations so that they would be aware of their responsibilities. It’s a reminder so that they will be cautious in their relationship with their Filipino domestic worker,” she added.

Sources at the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) said there 8 hours… were around 6,000 employers included on the watchlist after their former domestic workers filed a complaint against them.

“We are very careful about the watchlist because some workers just don’t get along with their employer,” one POLO official said.

“We had a case wherein a worker complained of alleged abuses against her employer but it turned out that the employer was even funding the dialysis of her other Filipino domestic worker,” the official added.

Employers on the watchlist are required to personally appear at the POLO if they want to hire another Filipino helper and, with Labatt Romulo’s introduction of the undertaking, they will now have to sign and swear under oath to treat their worker “humanely.”

“Some have refused to sign while others agreed,” a POLO official said.

The undertaking states that an employer should provide the HSW (household service worker) with “separate sleeping quarters and given a rest period of at least eight continuous hours daily.”

The employer would also swear under oath not to allow “the deduction of any amount from the monthly salary/wages of the above mentioned HSW as placement fee or refund of expenses and agency fees.”

“The HSW will be permitted to communicate with the PCG when needed and have custody of her passport/ travel documents at all times,” the undertaking read.

The HSW should also be given a weekly rest day “as provided in the employment contract and under the Hong Kong employment ordinance.”

The undertaking also stipulates that the domestic worker shall be made to work in the employer’s “residence only and shall be treated humanely” by the employer and “other persons staying in (his or her) house.”

The employer should also ensure that the airplane ticket provided to the terminated or vacationing helper “after the completion of the two-year contract shall carry a free baggage allowance of at least 30 kilos.”

“I shall explain to the members of my household the foregoing undertaking and ensure that (this is) observed by them,” the undertaking read.

“If any or all of the above undertakings are violated or not complied with, I will be blacklisted and banned from hiring HSW (household service workers) from the Philippines,” it added.

If they agree to sign the undertaking, employers on the watchlist would be allowed to hire a Filipino helper. If they treat them well and the worker finishes a contract without incident, the employer would be removed from the watchlist.

Romulo also earlier amended the “undertaking” of employment agencies and required them to tell employers that they should not give only noodles to their helpers for their food.

Romulo said she decided to add another provision to the “Agency’s Undertaking”—the document agency owners sign before they are accredited by the POLO—to require them to “brief employers about Filipino traditions and practices and about their ‘obligations’ to their domestic helpers.”

The amendment came after a Filipino domestic worker in Kowloon died after having a severe stroke while an Indonesian worker in Tseung Kwan O fell to her death while cleaning an apartment window from the outside.

Under the new provisions of the undertaking, agencies are required “to brief OFW employers properly about their obligations under the Employment Ordinance, Immigration Law, Employees’ Compensation Ordinance and the Standard Employment Contract.”

They should also apprise employers about “Filipino traditions and practices. For example, Filipinos usually take a bath daily; Filipinos are rice-eaters which means rice and viand are the Filipinos’ staple food, which they usually eat three times a day.”

Employment agencies should also encourage employers to “provide enough time for their helper to adjust to the new work environment and Hong Kong/Chinese culture.”

Romulo said agencies who violate these provisions face suspension while employers could be blacklisted.

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