‘Give Telecommuting Act a chance to be properly implemented’ — Villanueva

Published July 17, 2020, 1:40 PM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Sen. Joel Villanueva on Wednesday said Republic Act No. 11165 or the Telecommuting Act should be given the chance to be properly implemented.

Sen. Joel Villanueva (Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN/MANILA BULLETIN)

Villanueva, chairman of the Senate Committee on Labor and one of the principal authors of the law institutionalizing work-from-home as an alternative work arrangement, acknowledged the need to cope with the demands of the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said RA 11165, signed by President Duterte in December 2018, should be given the chance to be properly implemented.

“When we filed this measure and became a law, ang tinitignan natin ‘yung (We were just considering) work-life balance but now it is a very essential initiative in the new normal. Because it allows business to continue operating and workers natin makapagtrabaho (to continue working),” he said in an online interview,

“There are several proposed amendments…and siguro dapat bigyan muna natin ng chance na maipatupad nang maayos (and maybe we should give this a chance to first be implemented properly).”

The lawmaker said he still supports the proposed tax incentives for work-from-home employees as this would make them more efficient and also motivate employers to adopt telecommuting.

For this to be possible, he said the Bureau of Internal Revenue should first amend its regulations to include work-from-home allowance as part of the non-taxable worker benefits.

On the proposed electricity allowance for work-from-home workers, Villanueva said this may also need the concurrence of employers, noting that under the law, the telecommuting arrangement should be agreed upon by both parties.

While agreeing that more employers should be encouraged to implement telecommuting, Villanueva said some industries cannot be mandated to comply.

“For example, the linemen of electric companies, safety officials, field personnel. May joke nga ‘yung mga nagtatrabaho sa morgue, ayaw nilang dalhin sa bahay ang trabaho nila (Workers in morgues even joked that they do not want to bring their jobs at home),” he noted.

“Not all kinds of work can be brought home,” he pointed out.

He said another challenge is that “not all employers have the capacity to convert their operation to a virtual model.”

Villanueva said that telecommuting was given a pilot period of three years, when the Department of Labor and Employment must come up with a baseline of jobs and evaluate which can be placed under such arrangement.

Sen. Francis Tolentino filed a bill seeking the grant of a P1,000 monthly allowance for work-from-home employees to help them in the additional electricity charges caused by telecommuting. The allowances given by the employers shall be deducted from their income tax payments.

Sen. Imee Marcos, meanwhile, filed a measure proposing to make telecommuting mandatory.