By Eusebio V. Tan

On December 20, 2018, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte signed into law Republic Act No. 11165, otherwise known as the “Telecommuting Act,” which declares that it is a policy of the state “to affirm labor as a primary social economic force. To this end, it shall protect the rights of workers and promote their welfare, especially in the light of technological development that has opened up new and alternative avenues for employees to carry out their work, such as telecommuting and other flexible work arrangements.”

The law was principally authored and sponsored by Senator Joel J. Villanueva, chairman of the Senate’s Committee on Labor, Employment, and Human Resources Development. He indicated that the law aims to promote work-life balance and to address traffic congestion and its effects on the country’s economy.

The term “telecommuting” is defined as “a work arrangement that allows an employee in the private sector to work from an alternative workplace with the use of telecommunication and/or computer technologies.”

Under Section 4 of the law, “an employer in the private sector may offer a telecommuting program to its employees on a voluntary basis and upon such terms and conditions as they may mutually agree upon; provided that such terms and conditions shall not be less than the minimum labor standards set by law and shall include compensable work hours, minimum number of work hours, overtime, rest days, and entitlement to leave benefits.”

The law provides that the “employer shall ensure that the telecommuting employees are given the same treatment as that of compensable employees working at the employer’s premises” and that “the employer shall be responsible for taking the appropriate measures to ensure the protection of data used and processed by the telecommuting employee for professional purposes.”

The law shall take effect fifteen days after its publication in the Official Gazette or in any newspaper of general circulation. Within 60 days from its effectivity, the Secretary of Labor and Employment is required, in consultation with the National Tripartite Industrial Peace Council and relevant stakeholders, to issue the appropriate implementing rules and regulations of the law.

Let us see if this new law will indeed improve the productivity of workers, as well as their work-life balance.