Bill granting COVID-infected workers paid leaves seen as a timely measure

May 3, 2021 - 5:35 PM
A nurse gets a swab from a man under observation for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in a booth set up in a hospital parking lot in Manila, Philippines, April 15, 2020. (Reuters/Eloisa Lopez/File Photo)

A measure in the Senate seeks to grant COVID-19 stricken workers paid leaves of absence without worrying about income.

Opposition Sen. Leila de Lima recently filed Senate Bill No. 2148 which grants workers who have tested positive for the virus a 10-day leave to allow them to recover and undergo mandatory isolation.

The bill is specifically for public and private sector workers who have no means to work from their homes due to the nature of their occupation.

An employee has to file for a paid pandemic leave and submit their medical records and other proof of eligibility to the employers for immediate action. The leave is separate from the existing mandatory sick leave and other benefits currently enjoyed by the employee.

The Labor Code states that workers are entitled to five days of service incentive leave a year.

According to the measure, the Social Security System and the Government Service Insurance System would reimburse the employer for the availed leaves of absence.

Those who refuse to grant the leaves to the employees would be penalized with a fine of not less than P20,000 but not more than P200,000.

“Filipinos valiantly choose to work, to provide for their families and to save the economy, despite the danger this pandemic poses,” De Lima said.

“It is only right that these employees be provided with the incentive of having paid leaves when they are confirmed to be COVID-19 positive and they need to undergo quarantine or isolation,” she added.

The detained lawmaker said that granting the employees a 10-day paid leave would also ensure occupational safety and health in workplaces and avoid the further spread of the virus in these areas.

A similar measure was filed at the House of Representatives last year, which seeks to grant workers—either a confirmed, probable or a suspected case—a 14-day paid leave. This is also extended to their close contacts or the patient’s immediate family member.

Some Filipinos welcomed De Lima’s initiative on social media, saying it is “timely” and “helpful” to ordinary workers at a time when a public health crisis is currently crippling the country.

  • “Sana ma-push talaga ‘to. Kailangan na kailangan ‘to ng mga tao,” a Reddit user commented.
  • “This bill is timely as infection is affecting workers… we need more Senate bills to help workers during this pandemic,” a social media user in Facebook wrote.
  • “Very good and timely bill for which workers will benefit much,” another Facebook user commented.

“Please grant this law. Not all employees have the luxury or resources to WFH (work-from-home),” an online user from Twitter said.

Different labor groups on Saturday had called for a P100 daily wage subsidy and a P10,000 cash aid for the indigent and the jobless as lockdowns continue to affect the working industry.

It was reported that some 4.5 million Filipinos had lost their jobs last year as an effect of the implementation of community quarantines which caused businesses and establishments to stop operating.

The unemployment rate in 2020 was at 10.4%, which is the highest recorded percentage in 15 years.

Last month, it was reported that 4.2 million Filipinos in the labor force were unemployed, which indicates that 88 out of 1,000 individuals do not have jobs to keep them afloat this pandemic.

Underemployment also increased from 16% in January this year to 18.2% in February.

The figures came at a time when the government has opened the economy and allowed more sectors to operate.