MGID – Article

No More Mandatory Pre-Employment Medical Check-up of Filipino Domestic Workers in HK

The plan to require a pre-employment check-up of all Filipino domestic helpers in Hong Kong will not push through.

The decision was made after Philippine labor attache Jalilo dela Torre met with stakeholders who mostly opposed the idea. Despite not proceeding with the proposal, Labatt dela Torre said medical check up is still a must for all workers.

“Sometimes, good intentions are not enough. But the need for medical check-up is still a priority need for our workers,” Labatt Dela Torre said.

“Whether or not imposed as a pre-requirement for verification of contracts, or requiring employers during the course of the contract, the community must find a way to ensure that workers who have unhealthy conditions are given the opportunity to get themselves checked out by a medical professional,” he said in a message to The SUN a day after the meeting.

About 40 community leaders packed the small conference room of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Wanchai where the meeting was held.

The community leaders expressed fears that a worker who does not get a “fit to work” certificate would be terminated. At the moment, it is believed that many employers still allow their helpers to continue working even if they have ailments. But once the mandatory check-up is implemented, the “fit to work” requirements could be used as an excuse to fire an incumbent worker of reject an applicant, the leaders said.

The leaders proposed a compromise to require the mandatory check-up “within”, rather than “before” the contract. But they also agreed this would be difficult to implement as it would require the amendment of the standard employment contract through legislation.

Eman Villanueva of Unifil-Migrante Hong Kong acknowledged that the advisory stemmed from the labor attaché’s concern about the state of health of workers. But he added that the official did not seem to realize that the move could lead to job losses.

“Ang gusto natin kasi, yung medical checkup with the (framework) na kung paano tutulungan ang maysakit,” Villanueva said.

Cynthia Abdon-Tellez of the Mission for Migrant Workers concurred, saying the advisory had the effect of threatening workers’ job security although it was good-intentioned.

Unifil’s chair, Dolores Balladares-Pelaez said many OFWs believe that ailing workers who benefit from free or cheap medical services while working here would certainly lose their jobs if they were to submit themselves to a mandatory health check-up.

Other leaders echoed the fear, and said getting laid off would lead to more woes for the worker as medical care in the Philippines is very expensive.

A cancer patient from the cancer support group Filmcass said that if the mandatory check-up becomes a requirement for contract renewal, the Consulate would effectively be the first to reject them.

Following the meeting, Dela Torre said he had already issued another advisory to the agencies officially recalling the order issued on January 8 after listening to the community’s concerns.

He had issued the controversial checkup requirement after seeing disturbing data gathered during the POLO’s Health-Wise free medical check-up program that began last October.

The results showed the average number of OFWs with elevated levels of blood pressure and elevated levels of blood sugar exceeded the national levels in the Philippines.

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