Senate approves bicam report on ‘work-from-home’ bill

The Senate has ratified the bicameral conference committee report on the proposed law which will allow employees in the private sector to telecommute or work-from-home.

The bicam report emphasizes that telecommuting — 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 — will remain as employers’ prerogative based on a mutual agreement.

“While a telecommuting program is voluntary or optional, it should not be less than the minimum labor standards set by law including that for health and safety of workers, schedule and workloads, work hours and social security,” said Sen. Joel Villanueva, chair of the Senate committee on labor, employment, and human resources development.

“That’s why we are pushing for the approval of this measure so that we can have a stable and consistent legal framework that can provide an enabling environment to encourage participation and enforce compliance among enterprises, big or small,” the senator stressed.

Once enacted into law, the DOLE is expected to come up with guidelines that will ensure the “fair treatment” provision of the measure such as the:

• 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;

• Right to rest periods, regular holidays, and special non-working days;

• Equivalent workload and performance standards as those of comparable workers at the employer’s premises;

• 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;

• Appropriate training on the technical equipment at their disposal, and the characteristics and conditions of telecommuting; and

• Collective rights as the workers at the employer’s premises, and shall not be barred from communicating with workers’ representatives.

The bicam report also provides for the establishment of a telecommuting pilot program in select industries for a period of not more than three years to enable DOLE to determine the advantages and disadvantages of a telecommuting program in the Philippines.

“We congratulate all our co-authors in both Houses for their unceasing support to this measure which will give our workers a meaningful work-life balance,” Villanueva said.

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