The Department of Labor and Employment conducted its first National Tripartite Industrial Peace Council (NTIPC) meeting of 2019 dated 21 March at the Bureau of Labor Relations Executive Building, Ople Hall, Intramuros, Manila to finalize and approve the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of Republic Act No. 11165, otherwise known as the Telecommuting Act.
The NTIPC meeting was presided by the Department of Labor and Employment Undersecretary Ana C. Dione, Assistant Secretary Benjo M. Benavides, Bureau of Working Conditions Director Teresita Cucueco, together and Bureau of Labor Relations Officer-in-Charge Atty. Maria S. Bacay.
At the onset, representatives from both the management and labor agreed that the adoption and implementation of the telecommuting work arrangement shall be practiced through the exercise of management prerogative or collective bargaining, based on the voluntariness and mutual consent of the employer and employee, taking into account the nature of work to be done.
In line with this, the Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) clarified that that since the telecommuting work arrangement is initiated and offered first by the employer to the employee, the collective bargaining mentioned above pertains to a scenario wherein it is the employer who initiates and offers the telecommuting program, and not the employee.
Also, a representative from the People Management Association of the Philippines (PMAP) clarified that since telecommuting refers to a work arrangement that allows an employee in the private sector to work from an alternative workplace with the use of telecommunication and/or computer technologies, an employee who does not use any means of telecommunication and/or computer technologies shall not be covered by this law. Assistant Secretary Benavides affirmed this clarification and mentioned that in this case, the employee shall be covered by another arrangement.
The main concern of the representatives from the labor sector was the practice of some employers in contracting out its services, stating that the Telecommuting Act might be an avenue by the employers to circumvent the law and start contracting out services instead of hiring an employee subject to the telecommuting work arrangement. Assistant Secretary Benavides emphasized that the Telecommuting Act only changes the place of work of an employee, and that contracted out employees shall not be covered by the Telecommuting Act inasmuch as such Act only applies to an employer-employee relationship.
The other concern of the representatives from the labor sector was the contents of the telecommuting arrangement, particularly that the employees might not be in an equal situation as a regular worker working inside office premises, or employees might not be receiving the benefits due them, or there might be a violation of the non-diminution of benefits against the employees. Assistant Secretary Benavides assured them that the Act provides for protection to employees under the provisions on Fair Treatment and provides for a procedural remedy under the provision on Administration in cases of differences in the interpretation and implementation of the telecommuting work arrangement.
The rest of the provisions were approved subject to style by the NTIPC.