Villafuerte calls for quick OK of work-from-home bill

A vice chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations is pushing for a measure directing the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to establish a three-year pilot program for telecommuting, or work from home, arrangements in select local industries.

In House Bill (HB) 5630, Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte of Camarines Sur said institutionalizing telecommuting, or the work-from-home policy, will help solve the ever-worsening traffic congestion in Metro Manila and other urban centers.

The proposal also seeks to reduce business costs, raise workers’ efficiency and increase the chances for employment of circumstantially marginalized individuals, such as stay-at-home parents, persons with disabilities, retirees and those living in far-flung areas.

Under the bill, the DOLE shall  “set up and maintain a telecommuting pilot program, which will be used to monitor and evaluate the work-from-home scheme”.

The measure also said the DOLE shall be responsible for baselining, scoping and profiling research work prior to implementation, regular quarterly monitoring and evaluation.

The bill directed the DOLE to submit a report to Congress at the end of the period of the program.

According to the lawmaker, telecommuting will enhance productivity among employees and improve public health in light of studies pointing to long commutes as one cause of chronic stress and other health disorders, such as higher blood-pressure levels that lead to cardiac attacks, diabetes and other killer diseases.

A counterpart bill filed by Sens. Cynthia A. Villar and Joel Villanueva was approved by the Senate on third and final reading on May 22.

In the lower chamber, the bill is still pending before the House Committee on Labor and Employment.

“We hope that our colleagues in the House would be able to act fast in approving this bill when the 17th Congress opens for its second regular session in July as this would, on top of its many advantages, benefit employees who have mobility restrictions, such as those with physical disabilities,” Villafuerte said.

As with the Senate version, Villafuerte’s bill also ensures that work-from-home employees get fair treatment, by compelling employers to provide them the same workload and performance standards, regular and overtime pay rates, extra monetary benefits, access to training and career growth opportunities and collective rights being received by others working in their respective employers’ premises.

Villafuerte said telecommuting should now be an available option for workers, given the detrimental effects on health of spending long hours in traffic jams.

“Thus, institutionalizing new and alternative modes of working made possible through the use of modern technology is very timely in light of the worsening traffic situation in Metro Manila and the increasingly unpredictable weather,” Villafuerte said.

He added that adopting the telecommuting arrangement in the workplace will, likewise, “offer fuller employment by increasing the employability of circumstantially marginalized groups, such as work-at-home parents, the disabled, retirees and people living in remote areas.”

“A results-oriented management technique proved to be effective in managing employees. On the side of the employees, increase in the effectiveness of workers is expected. It allows them to manage the boundaries between work and family better, as well as maximize the use of freed-up time from commuting,” Villafuerte added.

Compressed workweek

Meanwhile, the House has approved on second reading HB 6152, seeking to raise the normal work hours per day under a compressed workweek schedule scheme.

The bill seeks the amendment of Articles 83, 87 and 91 of Presidential Decree (PD) 442, as amended, or the Labor Code of the Philippines.

The amendment to Article 83 of PD 442, titled “Normal hours of work”, provides that the normal hours of work of any employee shall not exceed eight hours a day, except in cases where the enterprise adopts a compressed workweek scheme, but shall not exceed 48 hours a week.

This is without prejudice to firms whose normal workweek is five days, or a total of 40 hours based on the normal workday of eight hours, the bill said.

The amendment also said employees shall be permitted to complete their working hours on a compressed-workweek scheme, whereby the normal workweek is reduced to less than six days but the total number of normal work hours per week shall remain at 48 hours.

Also, the amendment to Article 87 of PD 442, titled “Overtime work”, provides that work may be performed beyond eight hours a day, or 48 hours a week, provided that the employee is paid for the overtime work, an additional compensation equivalent to the regular wage plus at least 25 percent thereof.

The bill said work performed beyond eight hours, or the number of hours under a compressed workweek scheme on a holiday or rest day shall be paid an additional compensation equivalent to the rate of the first eight hours or number of hours under a compressed workweek scheme on a holiday or rest day, plus at least 30 percent thereof.

The amendment to Article 91 of PD 442, titled “Right to weekly rest day”, said it shall be the duty of every employer, whether operating for profit or not, to provide each of the employees a rest period of not less than 24 consecutive hours after every six consecutive normal work days.

In the case of a compressed-workweek scheme, the bill said a rest period of not less than 48 hours but not more than 72 hours, as the case may be, shall be provided to the employees.

The bill said the DOLE secretary shall promulgate the necessary implementing rules and regulations within 90 days from the effectivity of the act.





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