On 20 December 2018 the Filipino President Duterte signed off on the Telecommuting Act, Republic Act No. 11165 (the Act), which has been informally dubbed the “working from home act”. The Act allows private sector employees to work flexibly from home or any place outside the office with an internet connection, in an effort to increase employee productivity, performance, job satisfaction, and to resolve issues of long commutes to office workplaces.
The Philippines government has defined 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“, capitalising on technological developments that have presented new, alternative and convenient avenues for employees to carry out their work.
The development comes in response to the frustrations of many Filipino employees dealing with ever-increasing commuting times caused by worsening traffic conditions.
The law does not require employees to offer flexible work arrangements. Rather, in an attempt to address the frustrations and embrace technology and innovation, the Act introduces a telecommuting program for employees in the private sector, whereby employers may voluntarily and mutually agree with employees flexible working arrangements.
The Act aims to protect the rights of workers and promote their welfare, and as such, the legislation includes a number of provisions to ensure that no employees are at a disadvantage for entering into a telecommuting program with an employer. Employers must observe all labour laws, and continue to include compensable work hours (including day/night shift differentials), minimum number of work hours, overtime, rest days and entitlement to leave benefits.
The Act also introduces a “fair treatment” provision which proscribes that telecommuting employees must be given the same treatment as that of employees working at the workplace – extending the same rates of pay, right to rest periods, career development opportunities, equivalent workload, access to training, and appropriate equipment.
Employers will be responsible for ensuring the protection of data used and processed by the telecommuting employee under the Act.
Although not mandatory, there is clearly a move towards normalising flexible work arrangements in the Philippines. Employees should review their existing policies and ensure that where employees are working from home, they are given the same opportunities as office-based employees