Remote work ‘not an issue’ for employers
Ehda M. Dagooc (The Freeman) - April 18, 2019 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines —  Allowing employees to work outside their offices is not a problem for employers, as long as the support infrastructure, like fast internet connection, is reliable.

The Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) made this announcement following President Duterte’s signing of the Republic Act No. 11165 or the Telecommuting Act last December.

The new law defines telecommuting as “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.”

Based on ECOP’s survey among its member-companies, employers are willing to implement telecommuting in their workplace as long as certain conditions are met.

Around 87 percent of the respondents expressed openness to the idea of implementing a telecommuting/work-from-home scheme in the future as long as there are available: appropriate equipment; better internet connection; software for monitoring working hours and output; best practices/benchmarking tools from their industry; restructured organization (e.g. definition of roles and responsibilities); and guidelines and policies.

The ECOP survey, conducted from February 11 to March 4, 2019 with 98 respondents, had 56 percent of the respondents coming from the large-scale enterprises, 27 percent from small- scale enterprises, and 17 percent from medium enterprises.

Of the 98 respondents, 28 are implementing a telecommuting or telework arrangement. Among those with telecommuting schemes, six come from the IT/BPM industry, five from the consultancy industry, and four from the trade industry. In terms of employment size, the majority (64 percent) are SMEs, 46 percent of which classify themselves as small.

In terms of industry distribution, 20 percent were from manufacturing, 11 percent from the IT/BPM, and 10 percent from services.

The telecommuting arrangement of most companies covers only managerial employees. Consultants and project staff are also allowed to telecommute.

Asked to cite reasons for adopting telecommuting in their companies, the respondents listed heavy traffic to and from the workplace; the promotion of work-life balance and flexibility; business need (e.g. multinational companies with operations in different time zones); and enhancement of employee engagement and retention.

More than three-fourths (86 percent) said telecommuting employees get the same benefits received by their non-telecommuting colleagues.

For companies which responded otherwise, telecommuting employees are no longer entitled to transportation and meal allowances, overtime pay, and additional pay for additional days worked.

Respondents were also asked about differences encountered in interpreting the telecommuting/work-from-home policy, and 36% said they have encountered such situations.

The grievances covered the following: filing and payment of overtime; the need for telecommuting employees to stay connected and be contactable during work hours; determination of work hours/rest hours; and need to define company liability for employees practicing telecommuting.

The survey results also indicated some employee benefits from telecommuting such asit allows employees to work while being treated for medical conditions/illnesses; promotes flexibility in work schedules; increases productivity and efficiency; promotes work-life balance; enhances self-esteem and confidence from feeling trusted; saves time, as well as transportation and meal costs; and enhances safety during calamities and disasters.

Telecommuting benefits for the company are as follows: continuous operation with minimal interruption; more satisfied and productive employees; better employee engagement and retention; fewer work-related casualties and injuries; savings on operational costs; and optimization of working space (e.g. seating arrangements).

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) issued on April 1, through Department Order 202-2019, the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of RA 11165. Under the order, employers are required to submit their telecommuting work arrangements to DOLE pending the issuance of guidelines regarding flexible work schemes. — JMD

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