By Hannah Torregoza
Senator Imelda “Imee” Marcos is pushing for a bill that seeks to make the work-from-home arrangement a mandatory option offered to employees.
Marcos noted that since alternative working arrangements are becoming a new normal in offices due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, it is time to amend the law that allows telecommuting an alternative work arrangement.
The senator is referring to Republic Act No. 11165 or the “Telecommuting Act” that allows an employee to perform tasks from an alternative workplace, with the use of telecommunication and/or computer technologies.
In filing Senate Bill No. 1448, Marcos said working from home is a feasible mandatory option offered to employees whose physical presence in the workplace is not necessary for the completion of his or her job, and who have been with the company for at least one year.
“Various sectors, including the labor sector, have to make major modifications in their policy to ensure compliance with social distancing measures,” Marcos said in the explanatory note of the bill.
“This bill, thus, seeks to strengthen the Telecommuting Law by making it mandatory, and not merely optional, for employers to offer telecommuting as an alternative to employees whose physical presence in the workplace is not absolutely essential to the performance of their functions,” she further said.
Under the bill, a contract of employment should clearly indicate the eligibility of a given position for telecommuting.
Should the physical presence of the employee be necessary for a particular task, the employer may require his or her attendance in the workplace, within office hours and during weekdays, but not more than twice a week.
Duterte signed the Telecommuting Act in December 2018, after Sen. Joel Villanueva steered its passage during the previous Congress.
The law gives employers an option to allow their workers to work remotely but still entitled to overtime pay, leaves, and other benefits.
Marcos said data from the Department of Health (DOH) show that as of June 23, there are 31,825 confirmed cases of COVID-19 infection, with 1,186 deaths recorded.
“Clearly, a ‘new normal’ of social distancing, new hygiene standards, and limited physical contact shall prevail into the future,” Marcos said.