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CG says, it is illegal for employers to stop their FDHs from taking a day-off

29 July 2020

By Daisy CL Mandap
CG's online meeting with DFA officials had DWC's Rodelia Villar as guest

Consul General Raly Tejada has sent out a firm warning that it is illegal for employers to prevent their domestic worker from taking a day off.

He made his statement during an online meeting with two top officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs on Jul 24, as more Filipina domestic workers complain that their employers are preventing them from going out on their rest day, especially amid the recent surge in Covid-19 cases.

At the online meeting with Undersecretaries Sarah Arriola and Ernesto Abella, Congen Tejada said that the decision not to go out on a rest day should be mutually agreed upon by the employer and the worker.

Otherwise, he said not letting the worker go out of the house is illegal.

Hindi sila puwedeng pilitin na mag-stay sa bahay dahil labag ito sa batas,” said Congen.
(They cannot be forced to stay at home because that is illegal).

And even if the situation calls for it and the helper agrees not to go out, Congen said “hindi nila ito dapat papagtrabahuin.”  (She should not be made to work).
At kung ito ay kanilang papagtrabahuin, dapat magkaroon ng compensation,” he said, but emphasized that the helper’s consent is still necessary in such a case.
(And if they are made to work, there should be compensation).

He said this is the line always taken by the Consulate when consulted by the workers, employers, employment agencies, and even the Hong Kong Labour Department.
More employers are telling their helpers to stay home amid the surge in coronavirus cases
His firm stance comes amid complaints from many Filipino domestic workers that their employers are refusing to let them go out on their usual Sunday off, when they are made to do errands on other days.
The usual complaint is that they are told to do the marketing everyday, even after health officials have identified wet markets as among the high-risk areas for the recent wave of infections.

Others complain that with the ban on dine-in at restaurants, their employers have taken to inviting many relatives over, potentially exposing their entire household to a greater risk of contamination.

One worker said in a private message: “Hindi ako pinapa off minsan, sabi may virus. Pero everyday naman mag market. Tapos yung amo ko, lumalabas palagi para magtrabaho. Kapag Lunes hanggang Sabado walang virus, kapag Linggo may virus. It’s unfair po.”
(I am not allowed to go out sometimes, (my employer) says there is a virus. But everyday I go to market, and my employer also goes out all the time to work. From Monday to Saturday there’s no virus, but on Sunday there is. It’s unfair).

Several others say their employers have used rumors of a lockdown –which the Chief Executive Carrie Lam herself has brushed aside as “fake news” – to stop them from going out on their rest day.

Many of the workers have taken to venting out on social media because at the end of the day, it’s the fear of losing their jobs that prevent them from asserting their right.

But not all employers are taking advantage of their helper’s vulnerability amid the pandemic.
A reposted comment from an employer reads in part:
“The virus is active ALL week, NOT just on Sundays, yet you're happy to send her off to the market during the week to buy YOUR food? Likewise with taking YOUR kids out, or walking YOUR dog…”

She then added, “It's gross misconduct, bordering illegal to keep her hostage, all the while knowing that she won't report you to the Labour Department for fear of losing her job. Disgusting! These ladies are an indispensable part of our lives, and should be treated humanely, and with the respect they deserve!”

Also to the point was an article written recently by Equal Opportunities Commission Chairman Ricky Chu who said: “An employer who compels his/her FDH to work on a rest day without the consent of the FDH or fails to grant rest days to the FDH is in breach of the Employment Ordinance and is liable to prosecution.”

Chu said the employer could ask the helper to go out on a different rest day, but even this should only happen with the consent of the worker.

Despite all the warnings, however, not a few employers have used a Labour Department’s advisory in early February that they could “agree” with their helper about making them stay at home, as a reason for depriving the worker of her only rest day in the week.

Several migrant support organizations, including the Mission for Migrant Workers, have documented a number of cases of Filipino domestic workers who have been forcibly kept at home by their employers since the coronavirus outbreak began in January.

At least three of the workers have since left their employers’ house, and have successfully claimed for compensation for all the days that they were not made to take a rest day, plus one month’s salary in lieu of notice, even if they were the ones who terminated their contracts.

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