‘Work-from-everywhere’ covered by telecommute law
MANILA, Philippines — The new implementing rules and regulations (IRR) for Republic Act No. 11165, or the Telecommuting Act of 2018, covers not only “work-from-home” but all “work-from-everywhere” arrangements, a senior labor official said on Thursday.
Speaking at the televised Laging Handa public briefing, Undersecretary Benjo Benavidez of the Department of Labor and Employment (Dole) Workers’ Welfare and Protection Cluster said the new IRR, embodied in Department Order (DO) No. 237 issued last Sept. 16, was partly in response to the evolving nature of work amid the pandemic.
“Aside from the work-from-home [setup] observed by the department, the public may have also noticed that in the past year, work-from-everywhere [settings] have sprung up. Telecommuting is a new work arrangement and it continues to evolve, so it is necessary that our policies should adapt,” he said.
Benavidez said this was the reason why the term “alternative workplace” was redefined in the new IRR.
“We clarified that any place where work can be done through telecommunications or computer technology can be regarded as an alternative workplace,” he noted.
More importantly, the IRR stated that the work done in the alternative workplace must be treated on the same level as work done in the regular workplace or in the employers’ offices, which means telecommuting workers are not considered as field personnel.
“The significance of this is in terms of the benefits that must be given to a telecommuting employee, [and the application of] minimum wage, labor standards [and other forms of] employee’s compensation [similar to the office-based worker’s],” he said.
Regular pay, benefits
With businesses reopening or resuming regular operations, Benavidez said the Dole would continue to exercise its legal mandate by revising the telecommuting work regulations to make sure that work, whether done in the office or outside, remained safe and productive.
DO 237 states that “all time that an employee is required to be on duty, and all that an employee is permitted or suffered to work in the alternative workplace, shall be counted as hours worked.”
Thus, the new IRR states that telecommuting employees and those in the regular workplace must be given the same treatment in terms of overtime pay, night shift differential, and other monetary benefits; the right to rest days and holiday breaks and pays; access to training, career development opportunities, and collective bargaining rights, and coverage of company rules and policies.
According to the IRR, the telecommuting employee should also have the same or equivalent workload and performance standards as those of comparable workers at the employer’s premises. However, the parties may mutually agree to different performance standards that may be more appropriate given the location of the employee.
Telecommuting employees may be considered field personnel only “when their actual hours of work cannot be determined with reasonable certainty.”
Benavidez said the new IRR treated employers’ expenses for the telecommuting program, such as equipment and supplies to implement the program and for the telecommuting employees to perform their work well at the alternative workplace, as “ordinary and necessary cost of the business.”
“In short, these are part of the normal expenses of the business and should be paid for by the employer,” he pointed out.
The undersecretary said telecommuting was not only applicable to business process outsourcing (BPO) companies, but also to companies engaged in manufacturing, retail and various services.
Any company may offer its employees, on a voluntary basis, a separate telecommuting program, or incorporate one into its existing policies, job contracts, or collective bargaining agreement with its employees. Workers may also propose a telecommuting program to the employer.
Telecommuting programs must also be reported to the Dole’s regional offices for monitoring purposes, Benavidez added.
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