Friday, May 31, 2024

Labor dep’t throws support behind Senate bill on telecommuting

By Edu Lopez

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) is supporting a proposed bill that would institutionalize telecommuting and allow employees to work from home because of the worsening traffic in Metro Manila.

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Mary Grace Riguer, OIC-executive director of the Institute for Labor Studies, an attached agency of the DOLE, said the labor department is taking a favorable stance on Senate Bill 1033 or the Telecommuting Act of 2016, authored by Sen. Joel Villanueva.

Riguer said the adoption of telecommuting should be voluntary based on the agreement of the employer and the employees.

?DOLE supports the intent of the law in enhancing the protection of workers engaged in telecommuting,” said Riguer.

The Senate committee on labor and employment conducted a hearing on S.B. No. 1033 on January 25, encouraging companies to adopt telecommuting or a “work from home” arrangement to address the traffic crisis in Metro Manila.

In his explanatory note, Villanueva said: “With the worsening traffic situation in Metro Manila, the unpredictable weather and the clamor for a reasonable work-life balance especially among the millennials, institutionalizing a system of telecommuting in workplaces will greatly help in addressing this problem.”

A study conducted by the Japan International Coordination Agency (JICA) foresees the traffic costs in Manila to increase to P6 billion a day by 2030 from P2.4 billion per day in 2015.

Urban planner and architect Jun Palafox has also said that Metro Manila employees waste an average of 1,000 hours a year being struck in traffic.

Riguer said besides telecommuting, there are other forms of existing work arrangements including telework, virtual work, freelance work, staff leasing, outsourcing, and crowd-sourcing. However, the current bill only covers telecommuting.

She further stressed that telecommuting is just a work arrangement. “It’s not an employment status that you will be considered as a regular employee or as a casual or contractual-it’s not. It’s just a work arrangement that all companies could engage in.”

The proposed bill states that employers must ensure that telecommuting employees receive the same treatment as workplace employees, with the same pay rate, including overtime and night-time work, and monetary benefits, workload and performance standards, access to training and career growth opportunities and collective rights.

Telecommuters must not be isolated from the work community and should have opportunities to meet their colleagues regularly and to access company information, said Riguer.


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