House panel endorses bill on protection, incentives to freelance, self-employed workers for plenary approval

Published January 19, 2021, 5:02 PM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza 

The House of Representatives is stepping up its efforts to protect and safeguard the welfare and interest of the country’s freelancers, or self-employed workers, as a bill seeking to provide protection and incentives to freelancers has been endorsed for plenary approval.

(MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

Under the unnumbered substitute bill, a feelancer refers to any natural person or entity composed of no more than one natural person, whether incorporated under the Securities and Exchange Commission, registered as a sole proprietorship under the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) or registered as self-employed with the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), that is hired or retained as an independent contractor to do work according to one’s own methods and without being subjected to the control of the hiring party,  except only as to the results of the work, and is hired to provide services in exchange for compensation. 

In a virtual hearing, the House Committee on Labor and Employment amended and approved the draft committee report on the substitute bill to House Bill Nos.  1527, 2019, 3219, 3951, 6132 and 7790 or the proposed Freelancers Protection Act. 

Pangasinan 4th District Rep. Christopher De Venecia, one of the principal authors of the bill, lamented that for the longest time, freelancers have been overlooked by the state when it comes to policy, making them “very vulnerable to unscrupulous clients who will either change the terms of payment, or evade payment altogether.”

According to him, the bill seeks to recognize the right of freelancers to protection from late or non-payment of fees for services rendered.  

“This is why this bill is a very big milestone for us. Through this bill, we are finally affording freelancers the legal protection that they have long so deserved,” De Venecia said. 

 The chairperson of the House Committee on Creative Industry and Performing Arts urged his colleagues “to keep fighting for the rights of our freelancers, and to continue supporting this measure as it goes through third reading and beyond.”

“Hopefully, our colleagues in the Senate can observe the same rigor and passion that this Committee has exhibited throughout the deliberations of this bill. I am hopeful that they will pass their own version of the bill with much haste and consideration and before the end of the 18th Congress, this measure will see the light of day.”

The bill mandates any hiring party retaining the services of a freelancer to execute a written contract with such freelancer before such services are rendered. 

The hiring party and the freelancer shall each retain a copy of the contract and the contract shall be written in plain language and in one understood by both parties, it said. 

The bill provides that freelancers who are required to be physically present in the workplace or those on field assignments shall be paid a night shift differential of not less than 10 percent of one’s regular compensation for each hour of work performed between ten o’clock in the evening and six o’clock in the morning, unless there is a more favorable fee stipulated in the contract.  

Under the measure, all freelancers deployed in dangerous areas such as strife-torn or embattled locations, distressed or isolated stations, prison camps, mental hospitals, radiation-exposed clinics, laboratories or disease-infested areas, or in areas declared under state of calamity or emergency for the duration of deployment which expose them to great danger, contagion, radiation, occupational risks or perils to life, shall  be compensated with a hazard pay equivalent to at least 25 percent of the total payment for the period of such deployment as agreed upon in the contract, unless there is a more favorable fee stipulated in the contract. 

The bill provides that it shall be unlawful for any hiring party to: 

-Pay the compensation due the freelancer later than 15 days after the date of payment of compensation stated in the written contract or after the rendition of services in cases where there is no written contract;  

-Require as a condition of payment of compensation, at any time after a freelancer has commenced rendition of services, that a freelancer accept less than the specified contract price; and 

– Commit any act of retaliation against any freelancer for opposing any practice prohibited by this Act, filing a complaint authorized under this Act, among others. 

The measure tasks the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE). in coordination with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), local government units (LGUs) and other relevant agencies to initiate a program with the objective of informing freelancers of the rights and obligations contained in the proposed Act, the proper procedure of registering as a taxpayer, and their modes of legal redress in this Act and in other laws and regulations.  

 
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