|A carer looks after a patient at the Ha Noi-based Friendship Hospital. A recent survey showed that only 22 per cent of domestic helpers are covered by health insurance, despite having worked for their employers for more than six months.— VNS Photo Truong Vi
HA NOI (VNS)— The responsibility of employers to protect the health of their domestic helpers is firmly established in law. However, both workers and the people they work for are failing to follow Government regulations, leaving employees vulnerable.
The revised Labour Code, which came into force last month, regulates that employers must buy health insurance for their domestic helpers if they have worked for them for at least three months.
However, a recent study undertaken by the Institute of Family and Gender – which surveyed 600 domestic helpers and more than 390 home owners in Ha Noi and HCM City - showed that only 22 per cent of domestic helpers are covered by health insurance, despite working for their employers for more than six months.
Of this figure, only 2 per cent had their insurance covered by their employers. The rest mostly paid for it themselves, with the exception of a few living under the poverty line relying on subsidies from the State.
The research divided the domestic helpers into three groups, including full-time and live-in home helpers, part-time helpers and patient care-givers at hospitals.
As many as 13 per cent of full-time helpers reported receiving no support from their employers when they were ill or suffering injuries. The rate among the other two groups is 30.8 per cent and 42.9 per cent respectively.
The research suggested that in the majority of cases, employers did not know about the problems suffered by their employees as they had not been informed, as the helpers had not considered their ailments to be serious.
Nguyen Thi Lanh, 50, from the northern province of Ha Nam, works for a family in Ha Noi's Dong Da District. She said that she knew nothing about the regulations on domestic helpers' rights.
"I have worked as domestic helpers for about 10 years, but I have never bought health insurance as I am healthy. The insurance is unnecessary and such a waste of money," she said.
Lanh was afraid that her employers would take money from her salary if she asked about health insurance, so she never mentioned it.
"There is another problem. Domestic help is only seasonal work and I can quit it at any time to go to my hometown whereas the health insurance has a time-limit of one year," she added.
Le Mai Phuong, living in Hoang Mai District, has employed a succession of domestic helpers for the last five years, but she has never bought insurance for them.
"Each helper only works for me for five or six months, so it is difficult for me to buy health insurance for them," she said.
"Whenever my helpers cough, complain about a headache or have a runny nose, I buy medicine for them and I think that's enough," she argued.
The results of the research will provide a foundation for the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs to set up improved policies for domestic helpers, said Tran Thi Hong, a member of the research group.
"To help improve their conditions, dissemination is needed to help society realise that labour regulations are applicable to domestic helpers," she said. "The law should make a contract between them and their employer compulsory."
Hong added that it should be made easier for helpers contact responsible agencies when they are mistreated. — VNS