In response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, employers were constrained to adopt alternative work arrangements to continue business operations while preserving their workforce. At the height of this health crisis, employers resorted to flexible work arrangements to replace or augment their office set-up.
Remarkably, before flexible work arrangements were put under the spotlight, the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) had, as early as 2009, issued guidelines on the adoption of flexible work arrangements as an alternative to outright separation of employees or the closure of business. Under Labor Advisory No. 2-2009, employers and their respective employees are encouraged to discuss the propriety of adopting alternative work arrangements such as the compressed work week of five days rather than the usual six days of work, reduction of workdays, rotation of workers, forced leaves, broken time schedule, and flexi-holiday schedules. In adopting any of these alternative work arrangements, employers are required to notify the DoLE, through its Regional Office, of the intended arrangement before its implementation.
DoLE GUIDELINES ON FLEXIBLE WORK DUE TO COVID-19
At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the remedial measures adopted by the DoLE to cushion this health crisis’ economic impact was the issuance of Labor Advisory No. 17-2020, which serves as a guide for both employers and employees in the adoption of flexible work arrangements upon the resumption of business operations.
Notably, Labor Advisory No. 17-2020 distinguished between telecommuting work arrangements (popularly known as “work-from-home” or WFH) and alternative work schemes. Nonetheless, the advisory prescribed the adoption of both when necessary.
Even before the pandemic, the Philippines had already institutionalized telecommuting as an alternative work arrangement involving the use of telecommunications and other computer technologies through Republic Act No. 11165 or The Telecommuting Act. Under the law, for a telecommuting program to be valid, it must meet minimum labor standards and must be mutually agreed upon by the employer and the employee. In addition, an employee must be provided with relevant written information adequately describing the terms and conditions of the program.
On the other hand, alternative work schemes include the transfer or assignment of employees to another function or branch/outlet of the same employer, reduction of normal work days per week, job rotation, partial closure of the establishment, and other feasible work arrangements considering the needs of individual businesses. Unlike telecommuting, however, Labor Advisory No. 17-2020 prescribes alternative work schemes only as an alternative to the termination of employees and are temporary in nature, i.e., only for as long as the pandemic persists.
CSC ADOPTS FLEXI-WORK FOR GOV’T EMPLOYEES
Recently, the Civil Service Commission (CSC) promulgated CSC Resolution No. 2200209 and issued Memorandum Circular No. 06-2022, which effectively authorized government agencies to adopt flexible working arrangements.
In its rationale, the CSC specifically stated that it hopes to incorporate new information communication technologies to address the peculiar conditions of labor in the Philippines brought about by the pandemic, the country’s traffic congestion problem, and the frequency of man-made and natural calamities. Among the work arrangements that may be adopted are:
- Flexi-place, which includes WFH, work from satellite office, and work from another fixed places;
- Compressed workweek for employees whose tasks cannot be accomplished outside the workplace;
- Skeleton workforce, when full staffing is not possible;
- Work shifting for agencies mandated to operate 24/7;
- Flexitime, or choosing the time to report for work in the morning and the time to leave the office; and,
- Any combination of the above-mentioned arrangements.
While CSC Resolution No. 2200209 and Memorandum Circular No. 06-2022 were enacted to complement the Telecommuting Act, the Resolution placed no requirement on the use of telecommunications and other computer technologies to perform work. In fact, the CSC specifically provided for the assignment of alternative tasks outside of the office when necessary, and highlighted the adoption of WFH in combination with other flexible working arrangements.
This article is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not offered and does not constitute legal advice or legal opinion.
Mark Ernest E. Mandap is an associate of the Labor and Employment of the Angara Abello Concepcion Regala & Cruz Law Offices or ACCRALAW.