Lawmakers mull 35-hour work week for private sector

Employers who opt for the alternative arrangement must still comply with existing labour laws on remuneration and mediation

Lawmakers mull 35-hour work week for private sector

From lower electricity costs to fewer cars on the road during the rush hour, the 35-hour work week could revolutionise life in the Philippines – where more than eight million people are believed to be overworked.

The Philippine House of Representatives this week approved on second reading a bill establishing an alternative work schedule for private-sector employees. Workers in the country render anywhere between 40 and 48 hours of work per week. Those in metropolitan areas also typically contend with hours-long daily commutes because of the cities’ congested traffic.

House Bill 309 aims to cut back employees’ load to a maximum of 35 hours. The proposed reform comes after countries like New Zealand and Finland announced the possibility of introducing similar initiatives which seek to promote better work-life balance and respond to the workplace health and safety challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read more: Long work hours waste time and lead to lower productivity

There are “other less obvious but just as important gains,” said Representative Joey Salceda, who proposed the bill.

“Flexibility in workplaces accommodated the special needs of families, mothers and older workers. Shorter worker hours saved on utility bills, and resulted in fewer cars on the road during rush hours,” he said.

Employers who opt for the alternative arrangement must still comply with existing labour laws such as those on remuneration and mediation.

Workers on the 35-hour week should also receive their base pay and inclusions such as overtime, night differential and holiday pay and other benefits.

While the bill aims to reduce the total number of work hours rendered, it also calls on employers to uphold workers’ right to rest periods.

Grievances resulting from the arrangement should first be addressed through the company’s mediation process but they may also be escalated to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).

Read more: The benefits and pitfalls of a 'four-day work week'

Earlier this week, a Philippine senator also proposed improvements to workplace health and safety measures, particularly in lines of work that face increased risk of COVID-19 exposure.

Senator Lito Lapid filed Senate Bill 1910, which urges employers to address health and safety issues “by installing additional safety equipment, adjusting the work environment, adopting [an] appropriate work schedule, or finding [an] alternative suitable employment for the said employee”.

Employers who renege on their obligations may be summoned before the labor department.

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