House votes 239-0 to approve work-from-home bill

The House of Representatives, voting 239–0 and without abstention, approved on third and final reading House Bill 7402 which would allow an employee in the private sector to work from an alternative workplace with the use of telecommunication or computer technologies through a flexible work arrangement.

Principally authored by Camarines Sur representative Luis Raymund Villafuerte Jr., the bill seeks to promote the welfare of workers, especially in the light of technological development that has opened up new and alternative avenues for employees to carry out their work such as telecommuting and other flexible work arrangements.

Under the bill, 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.

The 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.

The measure further states that the employer, in all cases, shall provide the telecommuting employees with relevant written information in order to adequately apprise the individual of the terms and conditions of the telecommuting program, and the responsibilities of the employee.

The bill mandates the employer to ensure the telecommuting employees are given the same treatment as that of comparable employees working at the employer’s premises.

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.

They shall also have the right to rest periods by regulating the operation of their Internet servers after normal working hours as well as during weekends, regular holidays and special non-working days. Moreover, the employees shall have the same or equivalent workload and performance standards as those comparable workers at the employer’s premises.

Likewise, they shall have the same access to training and career development opportunities as those of workers at the employer’s premises and be subject to the same appraisal policies covering these workers.

Additionally, they shall receive appropriate training on the technical equipment at their disposal, and the characteristics and conditions of telecommuting. They shall have the same collective rights as the workers at the employer’s premises and shall not be barred from communicating with workers’ representatives.

Meanwhile, the employer shall be responsible for taking the appropriate measures to ensure the protection of data used and processed by the telecommuting employee for professional purposes.

The employer shall inform the telecommuting employee of all relevant laws and company rules concerning data protection.The telecommuting employee shall ensure that confidential and proprietary information are protected at all times. The proposal states that the parties to a telecommuting work arrangement shall be primarily responsible for its administration.

The bill tasks the DOLE to establish and maintain a telecommuting pilot program in select industries which shall last for a period of not more than three years. The agency shall be responsible for baselining, scoping and profiling research work prior to implementation, regular quarterly monitoring, and evaluation. At the end of the program, the DOLE shall submit a report to Congress on its findings.

The bill mandates the Secretary of Labor and Employment, in consultation with the National Tripartite Industrial Peace Council (NTIPC) and relevant stakeholders to issue the appropriate implementing rules and regulations of the proposed law within 60 days from its effectivity.

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