Opposition Senator Leila de Lima has filed a measure seeking to ensure the welfare and protection of Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) workers in the Philippines.
De Lima filed Senate Bill (SB) No. 2149 seeking to address the working struggles of BPO workers that are not fully addressed by existing laws, as well as pressing issues hounding the industry that have worsened because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“BPO workers continue to face overly stressful workload due to impossibly high performance standards, inadequate restroom breaks and sudden changes in shift schedules that take a serious toll on their health,” said the chairperson of the Senate Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development.
“These struggles have been further exacerbated when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country. It resulted in temporary closures of businesses, and have pushed even the BPO industry to recalibrate in order to adapt to the changes that the ‘new normal’ entailed,” the legislator added.
The BPO is one of the fastest-growing industries in the Philippines with the country being dubbed as the BPO capital of the world with over 850 registered BPO companies.
As one of the country’s main economic growth drivers, the industry has dramatically grown and became more complex as the labor landscape evolved, and some transgressions have been made possible by the loopholes in the laws which, at the time of enactment did not contemplate the growing demands of this dynamic industry.
“The heaviest burden that has hounded the BPO workers is the lack of protection and support.”
In filing the measure, the lawmaker stressed that the heaviest burden that has hounded the BPO workers is the lack of protection and support coming from the government.
The lady senator from Bicol recalled that when the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) was first implemented in 2020, many of those employed by the BPO industry which remained operational had to endure long walks under the scorching heat of the summer sun due to the failure of the government to provide for adequate transportation.
She likewise called to mind reports of employees being put on a “floating status,” where there is a temporary suspension of work of employees leaving them to still be considered as “hired” without the benefit of compensation until said suspension is lifted.
It has been legitimized by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).
With all the challenges being faced by BPO workers, De Lima stressed that it now rests on the legislature to finally hear the pleas of employees who have since called for improved work conditions.
“The significance and power of legislation allows us to craft meaningful measures to cure the gaps in the law that permit its circumvention to the detriment of the very people it ought to protect,” she said.
“This decades-old industry demands a proactive action on the part of the State.”
“This decades-old industry, though still fairly new, demands a proactive action on the part of the State to understand that its setup and needs unique to it require the enactment of a law that will cover all bases in order to prevent the exploitation of the void in existing laws against the members of the industry,” De Lima added.
Under SB No. 2149, she said the welfare of the country’s BPO workers will be protected by addressing the legislative gaps in existing labor laws, such as access to relevant information, protection from understaffing or overloading, additional benefits to promote safety, health, and overall wellbeing of employees.
Likewise, De Lima said the protection of BPO workers’ security of tenure and prohibition of floating while hiring and pro-worker safety policy during natural disasters or dangers, among others, are addressed by her measure.
“This bill aims to institutionalize more equitable arrangements in order to provide protection to both labor and capital, so that this industry will continue to thrive – this time in a robust environment that balances both the interests and welfare of employers and employees,” she explained.
Last year, De Lima filed Senate Resolution (SR) No. 462 urging the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development to look into the reported cases of regular employees in BPO companies who are being placed on floating status amid the COVID-19 pandemic.