By Kab. Cheng Ordonez, Editor-in-Chief

A LANDMARK piece of legislation is expected to change the way Filipinos work in the Philippines, having a law that gives fair treatment to telecommuting employees in the private sector, who can start working from home or any place outside the employers’ premises.

Yet, still be given the same treatment and entitlements as those employees physically working at the offices, the Telecommuting Act, signed by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte earlier, will be put into action by the Philippine Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) as the lead implementing agency.

Malacanang support

Chief Presidential Legal Counsel and Presidential Spokesperson Salvador S. Panelo

Lauded lawmakers for the passage of Republic Act 11165, otherwise known as the Telecommuting Act, last December 20.

“We laud lawmakers for the timely passage of RA No. 11165 since telecommuting, as a work arrangement, is fast becoming the new norm with the Filipino labor market starting to open up with new alternative avenues in view of computer technologies,” Panelo said.

“With its full implementation, we are optimistic (that) this arrangement can also contribute in easing the traffic conditions in Metro Manila and in other urban areas,” he added.

Republic Act No. 11165, institutionalizes telecommuting as an alternative work arrangement for employees in the private sector.

The new law states: “It is hereby declared the 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.”

“Times are changing and we have seen how the (Philippine) government responds and adapts to different work environments,” said Panelo, even as he said that PRRD’s signing of the Telecommuting Act is indeed a recognition of an emerging and innovative Filipino workforce,” Panelo said in a statement.

Fair treatment

Under RA 11165, employers may offer a telecommuting program to workers on a voluntary basis. However, they must give fair treatment to these employees and must ensure given the same treatment as those working in the office.

The telecommuting program must also observe labor laws and include compensable work hours, minimum number of work hours, overtime, rest days, and entitlement to leave benefits.

They must receive a rate of pay, including overtime and night shift differential, and other benefits now lower that those provided in applicable laws and collective bargaining agreements; right to rest periods, regular holidays, and special non-working days; have the same workload and performance standards as those of comparable workers at the office; have access to training and career development opportunities; receive training on the technical equipment at their disposal, and the characteristics and conditions of telecommuting; and have collective rights as the workers at the employer’s premises, and shall not be barred from communicating with workers’ representatives.

The employer shall also be responsible for taking measures to ensure the protection of data used and processed by the telecommuting employee, according to the new law.

Pilot program

To ensure smooth flow, DOLE has been directed to establish a “telecommuting pilot program” in select industries for a period of not more than three years and submit to Congress a report about its findings at the end of the three-year period.

The Secretary of Labor must also consult with the National Tripartite Industrial Peace Council and stakeholders on the rules and regulations to implement the new law. (With OPS)