DOLE issues guidelines for employers amid coronavirus outbreak

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) on Wednesday, March 4, issued guidelines that employers should follow when implementing flexible working hours in response to the ongoing 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak.

“The objective (of flexible working hours) is to help both employer and employees to get over the hump (caused by the coronavirus),” DOLE Undersecretary Ana Dione told reporters in a press conference on Wednesday.

DOLE said implementing flexible working hours was among the measures taken by the department to avoid “outright termination of employees” or “total closure” of establishments. (READ: A mess': Coronavirus economic impact on Philippines worse than projected)

According to Dione, implementing flexible working arrangements will not be mandatory for employers, who will have full say on whether or not to take such measures.

“The effectivity and implementation of any of the flexible work arrangements shall be temporary in nature, subject to the prevailing conditions of the company,” DOLE said.

Why this matters. Labor group Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) earlier estimated some 7,000 layoffs and retrenchments could take place in the next 6 months amid the growing coronavirus outbreak crisis. 

TUCP made the forecast after Philippine Airlines terminated 300 employees, citing losses incurred because of canceled flights due to coronavirus travel bans, which have severely impacted businesses. The group said other industries may follow suit and lay off non-essential workers.

Aside from flexible working arrangements, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello said the department will also require regional and overseas labor offices to submit daily reports on workers displaced by the coronavirus outbreak. He likewise gave assurances affected workers will be provided livelihood and financial assistance.

LOOK: DOLE issues guidelines for employers implementing flexible working arrangements due to the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak @rapplerdotcom pic.twitter.com/NGjKY9vHLA — Sofia Tomacruz (@sofiatomacruz) March 4, 2020

What employers need to know. DOLE Department Advisory No. 1 series of 2020, issued on Wednesday, listed the following arrangements employers may consider:

Meanwhile, DOLE urged employers and employees to discuss other possible alternative work arrangements to ease the effects of loss of income on employees.

Employers and employees will be responsible for administering and supervising flexible work arrangements should they opt to implement it, DOLE added. 

If employers and employees disagree on the interpretation of the arrangements, DOLE said differences can be tackled under the company’s grievance system.

In cases where no system for dealing with grievances is in place, regional labor offices where workplaces are registered will have jurisdiction over conciliatory talks.

DOLE said employers who will implement flexible working arrangements must ensure documents are kept on record as proof the measure was adopted. Employers will also need to inform regional or provincial labor offices if flexible work arrangements are adopted. – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs, the overseas Filipino workers, and elections. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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