Telecommuting Law: Minister clarifies legal obligations for HR

New order outlines revised rules on implementing remote work

Telecommuting Law: Minister clarifies legal obligations for HR

Employers across the Philippines are being urged to adopt telecommuting programmes by the Department of Labour and Employment (DOLE), following the release of revised implementing rules and regulations (IRR) in the Telecommuting Law.

Under Department Order 237, the revised IRR in the Telecommuting Law defines an ‘alternative workplace’ and a ‘regular workplace’.

"Alternative workplace refers to any location where work, through the use of telecommunication and/or computer technology is performed at a location away from the principal place of business of the employer," read the order.

On the other hand, it defines a regular workplace as the place of business, or any branch provided by the employer where employees carry out work.

Read more: Philippine senator: Remote work should stay

It also defined telecommuting as a "work arrangement that allows an employee to work from an alternative workplace, in whole or in part, with the use of telecommunication and/or computer technologies."

The order sets forth that the "terms and conditions of telecommuting shall not be less than the minimum labour standards." It clarified that telecommuting employees are "not considered field personnel except when their actual hours of work cannot be determined with reasonable certainty." According to the order, telecommuting employees should be given the same treatment as those comparable workers who are at the regular workplace. They are also entitled to rest days, regular holidays, and special non-working days.

"The employer shall also ensure that measures are taken, as much as reasonably possible, to prevent the telecommuting employee from being isolated from the rest of the working community in the company," said the order.

Read more: Philippines seeks to address incentive issues in WFH models

Implementing a telecommuting programme

Under the revised IRR, employers may offer workers a telecommuting programme, that both parties can agree upon, on a voluntary basis. An employee may also propose a telecommuting programme to their employer.

"The telecommuting programme may be in the form of a separate policy, or incorporated into existing policies or employment contracts," said the department order, as long as there is proof that the employer and employee voluntarily agreed to it.

The department order added that telecommuting programmes must contain provisions on acceptable alternative workplaces, minimum requirements of computer hardware and software, performance evaluation, code of conduct, data protection, and emergency protocols, among others.

The duration of the programme must also be specified, according to the order, while a machinery to address grievances must be provided.

Read more: Remote work: How can leaders improve their communication?

Message to employers

Labour Secretary Bienvenido Laguesma, who signed the order, said that the revised rules "clarify and adequately address issues and concerns of the telecommuting sector." The secretary then urged employers and workers to "jointly adopt and implement telecommuting programs that are based on voluntariness and mutual consent."

"This aims to sustain our efforts for economic recovery," he said.

The new department order came days after the Fiscal Incentives Review Board allowed the transfer of Information Technology and Business Processing Management companies to the Board of Investments in a bid to resolve the sector's tax incentive issues confounded by remote working arrangements.

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