House panel tells BPO company to pay separation benefits of employees who resigned during pandemic

Lawmakers are counting on a Business Process Outsourcing company to pay separation benefits to their employees who opted to resign during the pandemic crisis after some of its employees relayed to the House Committee on Labor and Employment that the company had placed them on “compulsory” leave of absence for three months.

The employees had also reported that the company, Sutherland Global Services, had “kept them in the dark” on their employment status, Roann Shermaine Daligdig, who works as a Senior Associate Manager, told the panel.

During a virtual meeting,  1-PACMAN partylist Rep. Enrico Pineda, chairperson of the House Committee on Labor and Employment, chided the BPO firm for its supposed failure to update the employees about their status of employment. 

"These people were kept in the dark. They were not given any notice as to how long they will be in furlough. Anyone who is in that position, ma-is- stressed eh (will be stressed)," he said, after Roann Shermaine Daligdig, who works as Senior Associate Manager, told the panel that "they have been totally kept in the dark."

Daligdig,  who started working with Sutherland on September 2013, said she was placed on compulsory leave of absence last April 20, 2020.

"I am registered PWD and a solo parent. I must support my children and at the same time, be able to purchase my medicine because I am a diabetic, I need that to be able to live," she said, breaking down in tears.

"It has been 91 days since we have been on "no work, no pay"," Daligdig said. 

"You have to be compassionate and think of these people. What is the best option for them, you are the HR. If I were you, I would suggest to them, we will just terminate,  we will give you separation pay," Pineda told Vernice Villaran, who represented the BPO firm. 

Villaran said out of their 19,159 employees in 10 cities in the country, 2,189 are "still on leave of absence."

However, she said on the average, 300 to 500 employees are being called back to work,  as the company's operation is at 80-percent.

Villaran said they have been sending out  the notice to return to work to all of their agents. She said the notice was sent last May 28. 

"If employees will not take advantage the available opportunities that we have currently right now,  their managers will now proceed to the exit discussions," she said. 

Seeking to find a "win-win" solution to the problem,  Baguio lone District Rep. Mark Go, panel vice chairperson, asked the BPO firm to implement a payment of separation pay as soon as possible. 

"Should there be openings in the future when the business improves, would you mind if you give them the first priority to be rehired?," the House leader asked. 

Villaran assured the panel that their employees who declined the company's offer to continue employment will be given separation pay. 

"We started reviewing our headcount requirement as early as first week of June. Before June ended,  we already had this process of paying out severance approved by our management. There is no issue on that," she said. 

Go,  then asked Daligdig if she is open to his proposal. 

"I am amenable  to reporting back to work as long as the company communicates and tells us what to do. We are good soldiers of Sutherland,  we follow because that's how loyal we are, that’s why we are waiting.”