The Philipino government has recently amended its Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995 in order to improve the welfare and protection of Filipino migrant workers. Immigration screening has been stepped up and exiting the Philipines to work overseas is now tougher and strictly controlled.
To exit the Philippines, a newly hired domestic helper is required to produce a standard employment contract verified by the Philippine Overseas Labour Office (Polo) and authenticated by the Embassy of the Philippines in Singapore. Each page of the contract should be signed by both employer and employee. Without this document, the domestic helper will be denied exiting the Philippines even though she has all the required documentation to clear the immigration in Singapore (valid work permit or “In-Principle Approval” letter from MOM). A template of the standard employment contract of the Philippines, so called the “Polo contract” can be found on the website of the embassy of the Philippines. A pdf file is also downloadable here.
What is in the Polo contract?
The standard employment filipino contract is different from the standard employment contract of the AEAS on the following points:
- there is a minimum salary of 600 SGD or 400 USD (though the currency conversion is not 600/400 as at september 2010),
- the employee must have 1 rest day per week,
- the employee must be given 15 calendar days of vacation with full pay for every year of service upon completion of contract,
- the employee must have separate living quarters,
- the employer must provide free emergency dental services (on top of emergency medical service),
- the employer must provide free round trip ecnomy class air ticket upon renewal of contract,
- in case of early termination of contract following a fault of the employee or due to force majeur , the employer is not obliged to pay for the return ticket.
The pitfalls of the Polo contract
The validity in Singapore of the above points is questionned: point 7 is illegal in Singapore, points 4 to 6 go beyond the Singapore legislation and regarding points 1 to 3, Singapore has no minium wage policy, neither off day policy, nor a paid leave policy for domestic helpers.
The Filipino community of dometic helpers in Singapore as well as NGOs, maid agencies and Singaporean employers have expressed their concern about this new rule. On August 29th 2010, the Straits Times reported the following precisions:
- “The Polo contract cannot be enforced in Singapore. It comes down to national sovereignty. Singapore has its rules” stated John Gee, the president of TWC2, an advocacy group for migrant workers.
- A spokesman for MOM added that when requirements imposed by a foreign government or embassy fall outside the local regulatory framework, “employers have to decide if they can meet these conditions when recruiting“.
- Employment agencies are free to offer salaries consistent with the local market since Singapore has no minimum wage policy for foreign domestic workers.
- The contract between employer and employee is a private matter.
The consequences of the Polo contract
The Polo contract imposes additionnal procedure when hiring a Flipino domestic worker thus making it much longer to get the helper enter Singapore, about one month when it used to be about a week only.
Employers in Singapore cannot hire directly a newcomer anymore. They are required to go through an agency accredited by the Embassy of the Philippines to get the Polo contract verified and authenticated. The list of accredited agencies can be found on the website of the Embassy and can also be downloaded as a pdf file here.
Other sourcing countries for recruitmenet are being considered: members of the management committee of the AEAS (Association of Employment Agencies in Singapore) are eying Bangladesh, an approved source country for maids, at the detriment of the Philippines whose tightened laws make it too troublesome for the local market (Straits Times, 2 September 2010).