Published 22 April 2022, The Daily Tribune

In the Philippines, 1 in 20 women and girls aged 15 to 49 have experienced sexual violence in their lifetime, according to the 2017 National Demographic and Health Survey. Sexual harassment can take place anywhere, such as in the streets, malls, schools, and workplaces.

We recall that in 2019, Republic Act (RA) 11313, otherwise known as the Safe Spaces Act was signed into law, which defines Gender-Based Sexual Harassment (GBSH) in streets and public spaces, online spaces, workplaces, and education and training institutions. GBSH constitutes unwanted and uninvited sexual actions or remarks against any person regardless of the motive for committing such action or remarks.

In December 2021, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) issued Department Order (DO) 230, series of 2021, which provides mechanisms and interventions, including redress mechanisms, in cases of GBSH committed against those covered by the Kasambahay Act, those employed in the informal economy, and those employed in establishments with ten (10) or fewer employees.

Those covered under the Kasambahay Act include general househelp, nursemaid or “yaya”, cook, gardener, or laundry person. A kasambahay does not include any person who performs domestic work only occasionally or sporadically.

Employers of those covered under the Kasambahay Act shall adopt the following measures to protect and prevent the commission of GBSH acts against the kasambahay in the workplace:

  1. To acquaint oneself, his or her family members, and the kasambahay on the salient features of the Safe Spaces Act, its IRR, and the Guidelines;
  2. To include the following stipulations in the contract of employment of the kasambahay:

a. The kasambahay shall be protected from GBSH in the workplace; and

b. The kasambahay shall be given access to Internet connectivity as part of the right to access outside communication;

3. To provide adequate assistance to the kasambahay, even if the act is committed by an individual other than the employer or members of the employers’ household, in filing the GBSH complaint/case to appropriate government agencies.

DO 230 adopts the International Labour Organization’s definition of the informal economy as “all economic activities by workers and economic units that are in law or practice not covered or insufficiently covered by formal arrangements.”

For employers of establishments employing ten or fewer employees, and employers or other persons of authority, influence, or moral ascendancy, the Guidelines provide the following duties:

  1. To disseminate or post in a conspicuous place in the workplace a copy of the Safe Spaces Act, its IRR, and the Guidelines;
  2. To adopt measures to prevent GBSH in the workplace, such as the conduct of anti-sexual harassment seminars and orientation on the salient features of the Safe Spaces Act, its IRR, and the Guidelines;
  3. To create an independent internal mechanism or a Committee on Decorum and Investigation (CoDI) to investigate GBSH complaints;
  4. To develop and disseminate, in consultation with employees a code of conduct or workplace policy which shall:

a. Expressly reiterate the prohibition on GBSH;

b. Outline the procedures of the internal mechanism in investigating and addressing GBSH complaints;

c. Set administrative penalties for the violation of the code of conduct or workplace policy on GBSH;

5. To report confirmed instances of GBSH and coordinate with concerned government authorities and ensure that the victim-employee receives prompt and appropriate assistance.

To ensure employers’ compliance with the Safe Spaces Act and DO 230, the Guidelines provide that the DOLE shall conduct yearly spontaneous, random, and unannounced inspections under existing rules and regulations. Non-compliance of employers thereto shall be reported to the DOLE.

Note that the filing of the GBSH complaint and/or the consequent resolution of the CoDI shall not preclude the victim-employee from the filing of any complaint or availing of any remedy before any appropriate government office.

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