The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) should ramp up  efforts to encourage employers to adopt telecommuting work arrangements in their respective organizations to minimize the risk of spreading COVID-19 among employees, said Senator Joel Villanueva.

“Telecommuting will help minimize the risk of spreading diseases such as COVID-19 by reducing the need for workers to go from their homes to their places of work, on the road to their offices through mass transport, and gather in their offices,” said Villanueva, chair of the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment, and Human Resources Development, who principally authored and sponsored the law, Republic Act No. 11165.

“While it’s not for all workers because some need to be physically present in their places of work, telecommuting will also help minimize work disruption and stem the projected economic impact of the disease,” the veteran legislator continued.

“Employers must adhere to their obligations to occupational safety and health standards.”

The seasoned lawmaker also pointed out that employers must adhere to their obligations to occupational safety and health standards, which mandates a safe working environment for workers. Companies are expected to vet the safety of their workplace through designated safety officers who can call for a work stoppage if an imminent danger for workers has been determined.

“Non-compliance to our occupational safety and health standards is against our laws, not to mention, morally reprehensible because it puts the lives of workers at risk. There will always be a way to maintain worker productivity, like putting in place telecommuting work arrangements to make sure office operations continue without a hitch,” the senator said.

The law’s implementing rules and regulations, signed in March 2019, state that employers and workers must mutually agree on the telecommuting policy in their places of work.

The work arrangement “must not be less than the minimum labor standards set by law, and shall include compensable work hours, a minimum number of work hours, overtime, rest days, entitlement to leave benefits, social welfare benefits, and security of tenure,” according to the IRR.

He also called on the Department of Health to be more “forthcoming” in disclosing COVID-19 cases to allow the public, especially workers, to be more discerning as they make their day-to-day decisions like commuting to their places of work.

“There should be no cover ups.”

“We recognize the authority of the DOH in the management and containment of the disease. But all we ask from the agency is that they should be forthcoming with timely, transparent disclosures on cases. There should be no cover ups. Our country already suffers from the malady of misinformation long before this disease began. The remedy is correct, honest, transparent disclosures,” Villanueva said.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) projected that the Philippine economy could lose between 87,000 to 252,000 jobs in five sectors, in addition to $669 million to $1.94 billion in GDP, if COVID-19 spreads in the country.

The ADB also estimates that the impact pf COVID-19 to the Philippine economy, using their moderate-case assumptions that factored precautions the government implemented in January, was at around 0.3 percent of the country’s GDP.


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