Lebanon has published a handbook detailing the rights and obligations of foreign workers who want to work as domestic helpers in that country, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) today said as it warned anew Filipino workers especially the women from working in Lebanon as DHs via illegal means that most often make them vulnerable to abuse and violation of their rights.

Labor and Employment Secretary Patricia A. Sto. Tomas said the handbook, entitled “Housemaids Rights and Obligations,” should serve as a guide to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who may be planning to work as DHs in Lebanon.

The Philippine Embassy in Beirut was provided a copy of the handbook which was published last December 2004 by the Lebanese Surete Generale.

The Surete Generale has also provided the embassy a copy of another handbook which details the rights and obligations of females working as models and at nightclubs and massage parlors in Lebanon. The Lebanese agency has asked all embassies, employers, and recruitment agencies in Lebanon to provide the two handbooks to those who want to work as DHs, or as models and in nightclubs and massage parlors in this country.

The Philippine Embassy in Beirut, through the Department of Foreign Affairs, however, has only provided the document detailing the housemaids rights and obligations since many OFWs in Lebanon are employed as DHs.

Sto. Tomas said agencies recruiting DHs for Lebanon must provide the prospective DHs with the handbook for housemaids, noting that the absence of the handbook should warn the OFWs as such recruitment may be illegal. She reiterated her call on the OFWs to check first with the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) the veracity of all offers or vacancies for DHs and other jobs not only in Lebanon but in other foreign countries as well.

The handbook for housemaids provides that the employer or sponsor must apply with the General Security in Lebanon the housemaid’s work entry visa. The visa is valid for three months during which the employer has to provide for official documents such as the housemaid’s yearly residence and work permits.

The handbook also requires that the housemaid’s employment contract specify the period of employment and the housemaid’s monthly salary. The housemaid is also entitled to a health insurance contract, permission to call her relatives at least once a month, periodic holidays in accordance with the contract, and the right to practice religious beliefs and file a complaint with Lebanon’s General Security or judicial body if the contract provisions are breached, including complaints about mistreatment or harassment.

When necessary, the housemaid can contact her embassy or employment agency in case she is exposed to moral or physical pressure and sexual harassment. The embassy, however, cannot act as mediator between the housemaid and her employer to settle their differences. Embassies as well as the employment agencies can only notify the General Directorate of the General Security regarding the housemaid’s problems with her employer.

Nonetheless, the Philippine officials in Beirut continue their practice of mediating for the OFWs with their employers in Lebanon, Sto. Tomas said adding the practice has been discussed and justified extensively with their counterparts in the host country.

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