DOLE issues guidelines for employers on 'preservation of jobs'

By Ferdinand Patinio

May 18 2020, 4:05 pm

<p>Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III. <em>(File photo)</em></p>

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III. (File photo)

MANILA – As the country transitions into the "new normal" amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) on Monday issued guidelines for businesses and enterprises on the preservation of employment.

In Labor Advisory No. 17, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III encouraged work-from-home and telecommuting for employees in businesses and industries already allowed to resume operations under the modified enhanced community quarantine or general community quarantine.

It also introduced alternative work schemes that private companies may resort to in order to forestall further business reverses, while protecting jobs, preventing closures and termination of workers at the same time.

These alternative work arrangements include transfer of employee to another branch; assignment of employee to another function or position, in the same or another branch or outlet; reduction of normal workdays or work hours; job rotations; partial closure of an establishment while some department or unit is continued; and other schemes that are necessary or peculiar for the survival of a specific business or establishment.

“We know that businesses have suffered so much, but for the sake of our economy we encourage them to dig deeper into their vast reserve of charity and benevolence so that their workers and the communities can continue to further weather this crisis that we are all facing and fighting together,” Bello said in a statement.

Employers are also advised to employ various wage and benefits schemes necessary for the continuance of business and employment in coordination with their workers and in conjunction with agreed company policies and their respective collective bargaining agreements (CBAs); provided that said adjustments in wage and benefits should not exceed six months or the period mandated in their CBAs.

He added that in instances when termination of employment becomes unavoidable, the emoluments for workers removed for cause should follow the provisions of existing laws.

Employers are also required to submit reports to the DOLE field offices on the adaption of any, or all, of the provisions of the advisory.

In a separate advisory, Bello said the cost of preventing the spread of Covid-19 in workplaces as provided for in its joint guidelines with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) should be shouldered by employers.

In Labor Advisory No. 18, DOLE said that the prevention and control of Covid-19 in a specific workplace, business, or industry shall be borne by the employer.

It emphasized that employers, contractors, and subcontractors, or their principals, should shoulder expenses in the conduct of the following prevention and control measures: testing of employees; disinfection of facilities; provision of hand sanitizers; procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE), such as face masks; putting up of signage; the orientation and training of workers including the provision of information and educational materials on Covid-19 prevention and control; and other measures necessary to fight and protect their workers and employees.

These minimum health standards are contained in the joint DOLE-DTI Interim Guidelines on Workplace Prevention and Control of Covid-19 dated April 30; Department Order No. 35, dated May 3 on Construction Safety Guidelines for the Implementation of all Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Projects During the Covid-19 Public Health Crisis; and Department Memorandum No. 2020-0220, dated May 11, or the Interim Guidelines for the Return-To-Work, issued by the Department of Health (DOH).

For contractual workers such as security guards, maintenance crews, and janitorial workers, the expenses shall be shouldered by the principal, or client, of the contractor or subcontractor. (PNA)