Changes under DoLE’s revised rules on inspections

Aylene Marie C. Sarmiento

Consistent with the efforts of the Duterte administration to stop endo and promote regulation, the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) recently promulgated Department Order No. 183, Series of 2017, known as the Revised Rules on the Administration and Enforcement of Labor Laws Pursuant to Article 128 of the Labor Code, as Renumbered (DO 183). The new DO superseded Department Order No. 131-B and with stricter guidelines, DO 183 aims to ensure a higher level of compliance of labor laws and standards in the workplace.

Under DO 183, establishments may be subjected to a Routine Inspection, Complaint Inspection or Occupational Safety and Health Standards Investigation, which shall be conducted by Labor Inspectors, formerly called Labor Law Compliance Officers (LLCOs).

Routine Inspection is the process of evaluating a private establishment’s compliance with labor laws and social legislation through a prescribed Inspection Checklist. Previously, this process was called a Joint Assessment, and establishments with valid Certificates of Compliance (CoC) or Tripartite Certificate of Compliance with Labor Standards (TCCLS) were exempt from inspection. However, since the new rules eliminated provisions on Certificates of Compliance, even compliant establishments may be subjected to routine inspections and random validations by the appropriate Regional Office.

For routine inspections, the DoLE prioritizes establishments engaged in hazardous work; employing children; engaged in contracting or subcontracting arrangements; employing 10 or more employees; and such other establishments or industries as may be determined by the Labor secretary as priority. Philippine registered ships or vessels engaged in domestic shipping and public utility bus transport are no longer considered as priority establishments for routine inspections under DO 183.

The new rules also shortened the period for establishments to correct their violations on general labor standards and contracting and subcontracting rules. DO 183 mandates that after the receipt of Notice of Results, establishments must institute their corrective actions within a non-extendible period of ten (10) days, instead of twenty (20) days as provided under the previous DO.

Another amendment found under DO 183 is the Complaint Inspection. It differs from the former Compliance Visit since the new rules limit the conduct of a Complaint Inspection to instances where there is a Single Entry Approach (SEnA) referral, or a request in conciliation-meditation proceedings at the National Conciliation and Mediation Board (NCMB) to validate or verify violation of labor standards. If anonymous complaints are received, DO 183 also allows surprise visits to be conducted to validate the reported violation of labor laws.

Under the old rules, the Labor secretary had the authority to issue work stoppage orders when non-compliance with occupational safety and health standards poses imminent danger to the health and safety of employees.

Under DO 183, the Labor Secretary acquires an expanded authority to issue industry-wide work stoppage orders, under exceptional circumstances.

DO 183 also exacts cooperation among employers by imposing stricter rules whenever a person refuses access to records and/or premises of the establishment during an inspection. Under the previous rules, the refusal to access must have been committed at least twice in the course of a joint assessment or compliance visit before the responsible person becomes liable.

Under the new rules, the refusal of access to records or premises, even at the first instance, shall subject the responsible person to a criminal action already. In fact, the new rules even deleted the provision on undergoing a mandatory conference prior to the filing of the criminal case.

Finally, it must be noted that if a compliance order for regularization is issued, and there is a pending appeal on such order, employers are prohibited from terminating the workers ordered to be regularized.

It is apparent that the new rules impose grave consequences for employers who do not comply. It reinforces strict implementation of labor laws and standards and addresses the intensifying campaign of the current administration to accelerate the regularization of workers in the country. While this direction aims to safeguard the rights of our workers, rushing or forcing the regularization of laborers may have adverse effects upon employers who are also struggling to make ends meet. Lest it be ignored, when businesses suffer, ultimately, it is the workers who are the first to bear the most painful blow.

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