The country's Telecommuting Law comes into play
The option to continue working from home should remain even if Metro Manila and other areas enter Alert Level 1, according to Philippine Senator Joel Villanueva on Tuesday, amid encouragement from other government officials for employers to bring employees back on-site.
Villanueva, who is also the chair of the Senate Committee on Labour, Employment, and Human Resources Department, said that the government should extend support to workers as the economy reopens, including providing them protection as they return to workplaces.
"Aside from still being in a pandemic, we expect that traffic and problems related to public transportation will return when our economy reopens. We have learned that these problems are time wasting and exhausting, which is why we should continue giving our workers the option to work from home as long as they can be productive," said the senator in a statement, citing how Filipinos spent about 257 hours in rush hour traffic back in 2019.
According to Villanueva, telecommuting or working from home can also help ease the problems from daily commute and traffic. It can also contribute on maintaining low COVID-19 cases because of decongestion in public transportation and decreased physical contact in workplaces.
"Our new normal is a combination of work-from-home and working face-to-face. We pushed for the passage of the Telecommuting Law even before the pandemic to establish mechanisms and systems to support work-from-home and hybrid work set-ups for businesses and employees," he said.
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The Telecommuting Law, or the Republic Act No. 11165, defines "telecommuting" as a work arrangement that allows a private sector employee to work in an alternative workplace with the use of telecommunication and/or computer technologies.
Under the law, employers may offer telecommuting programs on a voluntary basis, and on the agreement between them and their employees. However, the terms under the agreement should not be less than the minimum labour standards set by law, including compensable and minimum work hours.
Employers should also ensure that telecommuting employees are granted fair treatment that are given to on-site workers. This means that they are also entitled to:
- Receive a rate of pay, including overtime and night shift differential, and other similar monetary benefits not lower than provided in applicable laws and collective bargaining agreements
- The right to rest periods, regular holidays, and special non-working days
- The same or equivalent workload and performance standards as those comparable workers at the employer's premises
- The same access to training and career development opportunities as those of comparable workers at the employer's premises, and be subject to the same appraisal policies
- Receive appropriate training on the technical equipment and their disposal, as well as on the conditions of telecommuting
- The same collective rights as the workers at the employer's premises, and should not be prohibited from communicating with workers' representatives
"The employer shall also ensure that measures are taken to prevent the telecommuting employee from being isolated from the rest of the working community," the law read.
To do so, the legislation said employees should be given the opportunity to meet their colleagues on a regular basis and giving them access to company information.