Senators warn DOLE on proposal to defer 13th month pay

Published October 9, 2020, 3:32 PM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Senators cautioned Friday the Department of Labor and Employment about its plan to allow the deferment of payouts of the 13th month pay due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sen. Joel Villanueva, chairman of the Senate Committee on Labor, said the DoLE should first convene a meeting with the National Tripartite Industrial Peace Council to discuss its proposal to delay the mandated benefit to workers.

“We ask DoLE to convene the tripartite council immediately to discuss the proposal to defer the 13th month pay for our workers. This is a serious concern for both our workers and employers, and there must be sufficient consultation to ensure that any policy to be adopted will be acceptable to all parties,” Villanueva said.

Villanueva said that while he understands the position of employers, especially the micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs), the DoLE should “put together a guideline that is based on the realities faced by both employers and workers” and “a clear and reasonable solution” to the matter.

He underscored the importance of assisting MSMEs in the country’s recovery from the pandemic.

Villanueva noted that workers are also “in dire need of assistance” amid the health crisis.

“We want a win-win solution for our workers and employers through a consultation,” Villanueva said.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin, a former DoLE Secretary, said the plan would violate the current law governing the 13th month pay.

“Presidential Decree No. 851 or the enabling law for 13th month pay does not allow any exemption. It covers all employers, except those already paying its equivalent,” Drilon, who also led Justice department once, said.

“It is only in its IRR (implementing rules and regulations) where you find exemptions for compliance for distressed employers,” he noted.

Drilon said  the law’s IRR could also be “questionable as (it is) going beyond the law” and that the exemption should be per enterprise, “and not a general exemption.”

Drilon also added the proposed deferment of payment of the 13th month pay based on agreement “is invalid as well because legal compliance cannot be the subject of an agreement between the employee and employer.”

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said Thursday he is mulling to allow the deferment of the 13th month pay as a better option than exempting commercial establishments from complying with the law.

“Instead of going through that, why don’t we consult both labor and management, pag-usapan na lang nila na medyo mahirap ngayon ang panahon, baka pwedeng i-defer (they can just discuss that the times are dificult, maybe they can just defer),” Bello said.

“To me, that might be a more acceptable formula to address the issue,” he added.