'Step up': Employers told to provide more paid leave, flexible work to struggling workers

What are employers' duties for employees struggling with mental health?

'Step up': Employers told to provide more paid leave, flexible work to struggling workers

Employers in the Philippines are being urged to provide work accommodations and arrangements to staff who need further assistance with their mental health illness.

The Department of Labour and Employment (DOLE) encouraged employers in a recent advisory to provide the following accommodations and arrangements:

  • Paid leave benefit on top of existing leave benefits under the company policy, collective bargaining agreement, the Labour Code of the Philippines, and special laws
  • Flexible work arrangements, re-scheduling of work hours, and adoption of other work arrangements, including telecommuting.

According to the advisory, it is the employers' duty to ensure that their staff have access to mental health and self-care services.

"Employers shall refer employees requiring mental health services to the different facilities of the [Department of Health]-retained hospitals or the rural health units for consultation, screening, diagnosis, medication, treatment, and provision of psychosocial support," the DOLE advisory said.

It also reminded employers to handle the medical records of concerned employees in accordance with the Data Privacy Act to protect unauthorised access and disclosure.

They are also mandated to submit to DOLE an Annual Medical Report Form indicating the number of cases handled or referred to providers, as well as the activities and programmes promoting mental health in the workplace.

Discomfort at work

In the Philippines, the topic of mental health in the workplace is still a source of discomfort among employees.

A study from Milieu Insight released early this year found that 38% of Filipino employees totally feel uncomfortable in sharing with their supervisor, manager, or colleague about their mental wellness.

More than half (52%) of the Filipino respondents attributed this discomfort to their fear of being judged or discriminated. Other factors include:

  • Not wanting to burden other people with their problems (47%)
  • No one might understand what they're going through (41%)
  • Being perceived as weak, unproductive, or lazy (39%)
  • Fear it might reflect on performance evaluation (36%)
  • Concerns over confidentiality (24%)
  • People at work are private about their lives (25%)

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