SOURCE: Press and Public Affairs Bureau
The House of Representatives approved on second reading House Bill 7402 which seeks to give employees in the private sector the option to work outside the office through telecommuting.
The proposed “Telecommuting Act” defines “telecommuting” as a flexible 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.
Principally authored by Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte, the bill provides that 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.
The said 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.
In all cases, the employer shall provide the telecommuting employee with relevant written information in order to adequately apprise the individual of the terms and conditions of the telecommuting program, and the responsibilities of the employee.
The bill mandates the employer to ensure the telecommuting employees are given the same treatment as that of comparable employees working at the employer’s premises.
Telecommuting employees shall receive a rate of pay, including overtime and night shift differential, and other similar monetary benefits not lower than those provided in applicable laws, and collective bargaining agreements.
They shall also have the right to rest periods by regulating the operation of their internet servers after normal working hours as well as during weekends, regular holidays and special non-working days.
Moreover, the employees shall have the same or equivalent workload and performance standards as those comparable workers at the employer’s premises.
Likewise, they shall have the same access to training and career development opportunities as those of workers at the employer’s premises, and be subject to the same appraisal policies covering these workers.
Additionally, they shall receive appropriate training on the technical equipment at their disposal, and the characteristics and conditions of telecommuting.
They shall have the same collective rights as the workers at the employer’s premises, and shall not be barred from communicating with workers’ representatives.
Meanwhile, 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 employer shall inform the telecommuting employee of all relevant laws and company rules concerning data protection.
The telecommuting employee shall ensure that confidential and proprietary information are protected at all times.
The proposal states the parties to a telecommuting work arrangement shall be primarily responsible for its administration.
In case of differences in interpretation, the following guidelines shall be observed: (a) The differences shall be treated as grievances under the applicable grievance mechanism of the company; (b) If there is no grievance mechanism or if the mechanism is inadequate, the grievance shall be referred to the regional office of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) which has jurisdiction over the workplace for mandatory conciliation-mediation through the Single-Entry Approach (SENA) program; and (3) To facilitate the resolution of grievances, employers shall keep and maintain, as part of their records, the documents proving that the telecommuting work arrangement was voluntarily adopted.
The bill tasks the DOLE to establish and maintain a telecommuting pilot program in select industries which shall last for a period of not more than three years.
The said agency shall be responsible for baselining, scoping and profiling research work prior to implementation, regular quarterly monitoring, and evaluation. At the end of the program, the DOLE shall submit a report to Congress on its findings.
Villafuerte said institutionalizing new and alternative modes of working, made possible through the use of modern technology, is very timely in light of the worsening traffic situation in Metro Manila and the increasingly unpredictable weather.
“More and more employers have expanded the traditional mode of on-site work to the adoption of flexible working arrangements such as the compressed workweek and telecommuting, among others,” Villafuerte said.
Other authors of the bill are Reps. Alfred Vargas III, Sherwin Tugna, John Marvin Nieto, Edward Vera Perez Maceda, Dale Malapitan, Eric Martinez, Jose Antonio Sy-Alvarado, Manuel Monsour Del Rosario III, Manuel Jose Dalipe, Marlyn Primicias-Agabas, Gus Tambunting, Randolph Ting, Kaka Bag-ao, Raymond Democrito Mendoza, Tomasito Villarin and Lorna Silverio, among others. /MVI Palomar