Under the ECQ, only private businesses offering essential needs and other tasks relevant to the development of food and medication, working on a tight skeleton staff to sustain operations under strict social distancing measures and Flexible Work Arrangements (“FWAs”), are permitted to be physically accessible. Business process Outsourcing and export-oriented businesses will only work if they provide their workers with sufficient temporary lodging or transportation arrangements.
In the ECQ time, certain private entities are forced to briefly shut their physical premises, leading to the implementation of Work-From-Home (WFH) plans and certain substitute FWAs compliant with the ECQ ‘s requirement.
The article is intended to direct businesses and employees as they negotiate the foundations of federal legislation impacting jobs during the ECQ in a time of confusion, with policy initiatives to be divined by firms through varying issuances written in legal.
FWAs Available to Employers
How will the business continue to work during ECQ? Employment arrangements at the period of the ECQ were primarily regulated by the 2020 Employment Advisory No. 09 Series (the ‘COVID-19 Flexi-Work Advisory’), released by the DOLE on 4 March 2020, until the ECQ was implemented.
Under the COVID-19 Flexi-Work Advisory, employees are advised to implement FWAs to discourage COVID-19 from expanding through elimination in operating hours and working days, job scheduling, and other alternate work schedules to offset or minimize the impact of the employee’s lack of employment. To order to enact an FWA, companies are required to inform the appropriate DOLE Office of authority over the workplace of the organization by sending the establishment report on COVID-19, of companies and workers solely liable for the implementation of the FWA.
Although there are no formal regulations provided by the DOLE on the implementation of WFH Arrangements during the ECQ, WFH arrangements have arisen as one of the critical FWAs employers use to allow them to continue working during the ECQ given the physical closing of their workplaces.
For addition, under the COVID-19 Flexi-Work Directive, a WFH Arrangement functions as an ‘alternative employment arrangement to buffer or minimize the impact of an employee’s loss of income.’ This can be implemented as an allowance for workers as an alternative to the complete loss of income of workers arising from the actual closing of the workplace under the concept of ‘no job, no salary, no benefit.’
Although no clear rules have been provided for these WFH Agreements, the nearest equivalent legislation is the Telecommuting Act, in which a WFH Agreement can be known as ‘telecommuting’ relating to: ‘a job agreement that requires a private sector employee to operate from an alternate workplace utilizing telephone and digital technologies[.]’
The Telecommuting Act includes “equal treatment” of WFH workers as opposed to on-site employees in terms of (a) contractual compliance advantages, (b) professional expectations, (c) educational and career growth incentives, and (d) the exercising of standard privileges of an employee; An employee working in a WFH Arrangement is eligible, extending this analogously to WFH Arrangements, to earn maximum compensation for a full day’s job. However, this category does not apply to certain accidental conveniences, such as internet speed, ergonomic benches, or prepared coffee, offered by the boss at the worksite.
In related private businesses that are already required to exist under the ECQ, an FWA that limits an employee’s number of workdays and operating hours in a workweek can be implemented as an alternative exclusively. In a shortened plan for working hours/workdays, workers may continue to earn their wages, but they will be reduced to the decrease in working hours/workdays.
To these workers, the hours served shall tend to be regulated by the rules of working time under the Labor Code in such a manner that an employee is deemed to be employed to (a) all the hours needed to provide to the employer when on duty, (b) when the employee is sick or permitted to work, and (c) when the employee is deemed to be on request.
The decreased time in job hours/workdays shall not be paid of compliance with the concept in “no job, no salary.” An immediate decrease of compensation resulting from the reduction in work hours/workdays does not break the law in non-reduction in benefits provided that the implementation of a shortened workweek / shortened work hours needs employee approval.
However, employers must be warned that a unilateral direct wage reduction without adopting an FWA under the COVID-19 Flexi-Work Advisory is seen as a violation of the benefit reduction rule.
Rotation of Employees
Employers may often implement a rotating system in which, during the week, workers are alternately compensated with jobs. Such a plan helps a company to retain a full week’s working hours, but with decreased efficiency due to a decrease in the number of workers present.
With a clear understanding of the factors surrounding work relationships through the ECQ, employees are better prepared to cope with evolving workplace laws as the government’s reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic continues to change from day today.
To know more about employment law in the Philippines, contact us for a legal consultation.