By Arjay L. Balinbin and Gillian M. Cortez, January 10 2019; Business World


Image Credit to PCOO

A MEASURE institutionalizing telecommuting as an alternative work scheme has been signed into law by President Rodrigo R. Duterte, as confirmed on Thursday by Malacañang and also by Senator Emmanuel Joel J. Villanueva, one of the measure’s principal authors.

Signed by Mr. Duterte on Dec. 20 last year, Republic Act 11165 or “An Act Institutionalizing Telecommuting as an Alternative Work Arrangement for Employees in the Private Sector” defines telecommuting as “a work arrangement that allows an employee in the private sector to work from an alternative workplace with the use of telecommunication and/or computer technologies.”

According to the law, “An employer in the private sector may offer a telecommuting program to its employees on a voluntary basis, and upon such terms and conditions as they may mutually agree upon: provided that such terms and conditions shall not be less than the minimum labor standards set by law, and shall include compensable work hours, minimum number of work hours, overtime, rest days, and entitlement to leave benefits.”

According to Section 5 of the law on “fair treatment,” telecommuting employees shall “receive a rate of pay, including overtime and night shift differential, and other similar monetary benefits not lower than those provided in applicable laws, and collective bargaining agreements”; “have the right to rest periods, regular holidays, and special nonworking days”; “have the same or equivalent workload and performance standards as those of comparable workers at the employer’s premises”; and “have 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 covering these workers.”

The law also has provisions on data protection and on a telecommuting pilot program of up to three years in select industries and on the watch of the Department of Labor and Employment.

Sought for comment, Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECoP) acting president Sergio R. Ortiz-Luis, Jr. said, “The problem with it is that it (telecommuting) shouldn’t be compulsory. If it isn’t compulsory, why is there a law? You can actually do it without the law…. There are companies na okay na ‘yan (that are okay [with telecommuting]).”

He added that a problem for this type of working arrangement is it’s “very hard to monitor people working at home.”

Also sought for comment, Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) president and party-list representative Raymond C. Mendoza said, “Though the measure is not mandatory, the measure will not reduce the wages and benefits received by workers.”

Mr. Villanueva, who heads the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development, said in a statement, “With this recently signed law, we can now have a stable and consistent legal framework that can provide an enabling environment to encourage participation and enforce compliance among enterprises, big or small. This is indeed a fitting New Year’s welcome for our dedicated Filipino workers.” — With Arjay L. Balinbin and Gillian M. Cortez