Tolentino bill: A worker must not be ordered to work during his rest hours

Published January 19, 2022, 2:20 PM

by Mario Casayuran

Due to advances in technology, Senator Francis Tolentino on Wednesday, Jan. 19 filed a bill promoting the welfare of employees by defining rest hours as employees are now virtually always at the beck and call of their employers.

‘’While we recognize the benefits of work-from-home and telecommuting arrangements, they have thinned the line between work and personal space and time,’’ Tolentino said.

‘’Sometimes, technology and work-from-home arrangements distort the idea of work and home from the point of view of the employees,’’ he pointed out.

‘’For instance, instead of de-stressing at home from the pressures of work, work is now brought to the employees’ homes or wherever they go,’’ he noted.

Tolentino said that in recent years, alternative work arrangements have increasingly been adopted by employers for a variety of reasons, such as for energy efficiency or to enhance “work-life balance” for employees.

‘’However, the COVID-19 pandemic has greatly affected and reshaped the business and employment landscape,’’ he added.

Due to the lockdown and quarantine protocols imposed by the government, employers are necessarily compelled to implement alternative work arrangements in order to adapt to the demands of the new normal, he said.

The explanatory note of the Tolentino bill states that the power of control of employers now overreaches beyond working hours through the use of phone and email.

‘’This blurring between working time and private time has become more pronounced during the pandemic because of the increase in the number of employees on a work-from-home or telecommuting arrangements.

This bill defines the rest hours of employees, and prohibits employers from exacting work or contacting employees, without the latter’s consent, during rest hours.

An employer that violates the prohibitions set in this bill will be penalized with a monetary sanction and a fine, or with imprisonment if attended with coercion or resulted in discrimination

The bill cited a research by Eurofound showing people who work regularly from home are more than twice as likely to surpass the maximum of 48 working hours per week, compared to those working on their employer’s premises.

Almost 30 percent of those working from home report working in their free time every day or several times a week, compared to less than five percent of office workers In 2017,

France passed a law to give workers the right to disconnect from email, smartphones, and other work-related electronic devices after the working day ends.

French labor unions pushed for a disconnect rule, saying digital technologies have created an explosion of undeclared labor that is forcing employees to work outside the typical work week. Unions in Germany and Ireland also won rights for workers to disconnect.