Employers can't just sack 'kasambahays' if they contract COVID-19 -- OSHC

An official of the Occupational Safety And Health Center (OSHC) said employers cannot sack their "kasambahays" or household helpers just because they were infected with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Official Gazette / MANILA BULLETIN

Reynaldo Sta. Ana of the OSHC said this applies not just for COVID-19 but also for other diseases suffered by the household service worker (HSW).

"It is not just with COVID-19, but also with tuberculosis, HIV, hepatitis B. These aren't enough reasons," he said in a virtual forum on Tuesday.

Sta. Ana said employers should have compassion and help their kasambahays gain access to medical facilities and have their medical needs addressed.

"Based on existing workplace guidelines regarding COVID-19, employers are required to shoulder the testing and hospitalization of their COVID-19 infected kasambahays," he said.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III has encouraged kasambahays to file labor-related complaints with the labor department.

In Labor Advisory No. 35, he laid out the procedures on the conduct of mandatory conference, issuance of compliance order, and handling of appealed labor disputes involving kasambahay.

The issuance supplements Labor Advisory No. 17, Series of 2018, which provides guidelines on handling kasambahay complaints or requests for assistance through the Single Entry Approach (SEnA).

SEnA is a mechanism that provides accessible, speedy, impartial, and inexpensive settlement procedure of all labor and employment issues through a 30-day mandatory conciliation-mediation.

Under the guidelines, after a request for assistance has been filed by the kasambahay at the Department of Labor and Employment Central/Regional/Provincial/Field Offices or its Attached Agencies, a mandatory conference shall be conducted by the handling officer and the issue shall be resolved within 30 days from the conduct of initial proceedings.

Depending on the preference and availability of the kasambahay and his/her employer, conferences may be done face-to-face while observing the prescribed minimum health standards and safety protocols or through digital platforms.

The hearing officer shall require the submission of documents, such as employment contract or agreement, pay-slip showing payment and receipt of wages and benefits, and other pertinent documents from concerned parties.

The minutes of the conference, which shall either be in a physical or digital copy, will be signed by the parties and attested to by the DOLE hearing officer.

Within 10 days after the termination of the mandatory conference, the hearing officer shall submit a recommendation for the resolution of the case.

The DOLE Regional Director shall then issue the compliance order within 10 days from the submission of the case for resolution.

The compliance order shall contain the statement of evidence supporting the findings of monetary award, among others; and computation of the unpaid wages and other benefits, including the period covered and the formula used in the computation.

It shall also contain a directive to the employer to submit proof of compliance within 10 days from the receipt of the compliance order.

If the employer fails or refuses to pay any of the prescribed increases or adjustments in wage rates, the respondent/employer is given a period of 10 days from receipt of the compliance order to pay the wage differential.

The compliance order, however, may be appealed to the DOLE Secretary by filing a Memorandum of Appeal, together with an appeal bond, either in cash or surety in an amount equivalent to the judgement award, within 10 days from receipt thereof.

The DOLE Secretary shall have 30 days from the receipt of the entire records of the case to decide the appeal.

The case shall be considered closed and terminated after the Resolution or Decision of the DOLE Secretary has attained finality and an Entry of Judgment was issued.