The dream of avoiding the daily commute and working conveniently at home is now closer to a reality for the average Filipino worker.
The House of Representatives has unanimously approved a bill that will give Filipino employees the option to work from home.
House Bill 7402, or the Telecommuting Act of 2017, was approved by the House of Representatives on its third and final reading on May 28, 2018. The bill was approved with 239 affirmative votes and no negative votes.
Under the Telecommuting Act, employees will have an option for more flexible work arrangement. Instead of reporting daily to an office, an employee with be allowed to work at a convenient, alternative workplace by using telecommunication and other computer-based technologies.
Telecommuting is more commonly or simply known as “work from home,” though it goes beyond that. In theory, a telecommuting employee will be able to work anywhere they have access to a computer and the internet.
The act states that the telecommuting program is voluntary and subject to certain terms and conditions that must be agreed on by both employers and employees.
Employers and employees who agree on a telecommuting program should also agree on conditions that comply with the minimum labor standards set by law.
The employer needs to treat employees who take the telecommuting option the same as they would their employees working in the office.
Telecommuting employees and office employees should have the same rate of pay, workload, rest days, and career development and training opportunities.
Improving morale, productivity, and health
Under the terms of the act, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) will also be tasked to first establish, then maintain a telecommuting pilot program. This program will run in select industries for a period not lasting more than three years. DOLE will then evaluate the pilot programs and report their findings to congress.
The bill is principally authored by Camarines Sur Representative Lray Villafuerte, who believes that it will not only help modernize the Filipino workplace but also help the Filipino workforce cope with Metro Manila’s worsening traffic situation.
His co-author, Quezon City Representative Alfred Vargas, believes that allowing employees to conveniently work from home will improve their morale, productivity, and health.
“It improves organization retention, employee performance and customers satisfaction,” he said in a report in the Philippine Star.
“It also leads to better health conditions for employees as telecommuting lessens their exposure to pollution,” added Vargas.
According to Vargas, in Metro Manila alone, employees waste around a thousand hours annually in commuting. These are hours that could have otherwise been spent being productive or resting and spending time with family.
The benefits of telecommuting to both worker morale and productivity and as a way to improve traffic conditions in the metro has also been recognized by the Senate, which passed Senate Bill 1365 last year.
Also known as the Telecommuting Act of 2017, the bill was approved by the Senate on May 22, by a vote of 22 for and zero against.
Now both the House and the Senate have approved similar bills, a bicameral conference committee will be needed to reconcile both versions. The reconciled version will have to be ratified by both chambers before being brought to Malacañang to be signed into law.