Telecommuting Act gains buzz online amid talks about return to onsite work

March 15, 2022 - 5:02 PM
Image by Peter Olex via Pexels

Some Filipinos recently reacted to an old report on the Telecommuting Act as employers and government mull the return of onsite work.

It was a GMA News report in 2019 about the approval of the law that encourages employers to make telecommuting or work-from-home arrangements an option for workers.

Republic Act 11165 or the Telecommuting Act defined telecommuting as “a work from an alternative workplace with the use of telecommunications and/or computer technologies.”

Following its signing, Salvador Panelo, former presidential spokesperson and former chief presidential legal counsel, stated that the law would hopefully ease traffic congestion in Metro Manila and other urban areas.

“With its full implementation, we are optimistic that this arrangement can also contribute in easing the traffic conditions in Metro Manila and in other urban areas,” Panelo was quoted as saying in a report that year.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses were forced to shift to the work-from-home setup following the implementation of tough lockdowns to help curb the spread of the virus in the country.

READ: Work-from-home scheme pushed to keep employees safer from COVID-19

What is Telecommuting Act?

The Telecommuting Act and its rules and regulations have been in effect since March 26, 2019.

In a previous statement about the law, Sen. Joel Villanueva, the principal author and sponsor of its Senate bill, stated that this measure was created to provide a legal framework for the safe and fair treatment to all workers, whether telecommuting or not

Villanueva also noted that telecommuting is only optional and should be mutually agreed upon.

READ: The pros and cons of telecommuting or the work-from-home arrangement in the Philippines 

In section 4 of the law, the following provision reads: “An employer in private sector may offer a telecommuting program to its employees on a voluntary basis, and upon such terms and conditions as they may mutually agree upon.”

The law, therefore, does not require employers to implement a telecommuting program if not possible.

Meanwhile, as stated in section 5, all telecommuting workers should also be given the treatment as the ones working inside the business premises.

This includes the rate of pay, access to health care privileges, performance standards and workers’ rights.

The Department of Labor and Employment was tasked to establish the measure’s implementing rules and regulations.

New reactions to the Telecommuting Act

Amid the downward trend in the daily tally of confirmed COVID-19 cases, there are talks among employers and government officials about requiring employees to work onsite again.

Metro Manila and 38 other areas are also placed under COVID-19 Alert Level 1, the most relaxed restriction of the alert level system.

Filipinos who found this report circulated it again on Facebook and left different new comments under it.

They expressed their opposition against the return to onsite work.

“Forcing employees to work onsite without accurate planning for our health safety is irresponsible and dangerous,” one Facebook user said.

“Kapag naka work from home ang karamihan sa NCR less traffic, less hawaan (FYI MAY COVID PA) more peeps will order online and most importantly nagbabayad parin naman kami ng tax kahit naka wfh,” another Facebook user commented.  

Several online users also previously cited long traffic hours, indoor ventilation issues, and other concerns about going back to the office amid the still ongoing health crisis.

READ: Return to Office vs Work from Home: Filipino employees cite traffic, fuel prices 

Under Alert Level 1, most businesses and services are already allowed to resume operations without limited capacities provided that the mandated minimum public health and safety protocols are implemented and observed.

There are also no restrictions for indoor or outdoor venues.