Gloria Esguerra Melencio, Arab News
Published — Sunday 20 January 2008
Last Update 20 January 2008 3:00 am
MANILA, 20 January 2008 — Filipino women domestic helpers being hired directly for work abroad are now required to undergo pregnancy test under a new set of rules issued by the Philippine government.
The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) yesterday said applications for direct hiring would also be screened thoroughly, and the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) or the Philippine Embassy in the worker’s country of destination are to first verify and give their approval to the contract.
After the application has passed screening, it will still have to be approved by the Philippine labor secretary.
Migrant workers with employment contracts and work visas issued after Jan. 15, 2008 will be covered by the new guidelines, said the POEA.
Household service workers, or HSWs as domestic workers are now also officially called, must pass the required pregnancy tests before applying for the direct-hire scheme, the agency said.
The POEA said the new measures are meant to protect OFWs.
Philippine labor and welfare officials assigned iin the Middle East have particularly recommended the pregnancy test in view of many cases of women workers getting in trouble in their place of work after they are found to be pregnant.
For skill categories other than the HSWs, the POLO and the Philippine Embassy nearest the jobsite must first verify and authenticate the OFW employment contract duly signed by both the worker and employer. It is also specified in the new rules that all direct hires, except those with previous employment in the same jobsite, are exempted from attending the Pre-departure Orientation Seminar.
Memorandum Circular No. 4 signed by POEA Administrator Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz on Dec. 18, 2007, specified that direct hiring may be allowed only for members of the diplomatic corps and of international organizations, government officials of ministerial level, and employers who are hiring on one-time or trial basis. The number of employees to be hired directly shall not exceed five.
Employers must also comply with stricter documentation and processing requirements, which include the posting of repatriation bond in the amount of $5,000 per employee to guarantee the repatriation of the worker or of his remains, in the event of death, and performance bond of $3,000 per employee to guarantee payment of the employee’s salary for the duration of the employment contract. They will also provide the employees with health and medical insurance.
In a press statement, Labor Secretary Chairman Arturo Brion said that employers who do not want to comply with the bonding and insurance requirements or with the standard employment contract will not be allowed to hire OFWs directly.They may hire, however, thru licensed placement agencies which are willing to assume responsibilities over the employees, including payment of salaries and other employment benefits.
The new guidelines for direct hiring are posted on the POEA website, www.poea.gov.ph.