Press Release
May 22, 2017

Senate seeks to protect home-based workers with approval of bill

The Senate approved today on third and final reading a bill that sought to encourage companies to adopt a work from home program for the employees as a means of easing traffic congestion in Metro Manila and other urban cities.

Senate Bill No. 1363 or the Telecommuting Act of 2017, was approved with 22 affirmative votes, zero negative vote and zero abstention. The proposed law was authored by Senators Joel Villanueva and Cynthia Villar.

The bill defines telecommuting as the partial or total substitution of computers or telecommunication technologies, or both, for the commute to work by employees. The adoption of the program would ease the worsening traffic situation in urban cities by allowing more employees to work at home.

Villanueva, chair of the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development and sponsor of SBN 1363, said the measure also sought to protect the rights of the home-based workers by ensuring that they had equal pay, leave benefits and promotion as their counterparts in the office. It also sought to lessen the feelings of isolation of home-based workers from their office mates.

While telecommuting had started in the 1980s, especially in the fields of communication and architecture, Villanueva said that only a few companies in the Philippines had adopted telecommuting.

In 2014, he said, the US Software company VM Ware Inc. conducted a study involving corporations with more than 500 employees in the Philippines. Villanueva said the study showed that 70 percent of their respondents who worked "on the go" claimed that they were more productive and creative. Around 93 percent said that they used their Smartphones for work while 73 percent said that working-from-home was an ideal work.

Villanueva said a report from the Employers Confederation of the Philippines showed that there was a growing acceptance of telecommuting in workplaces such as Meralco, SGS Philippines, Inc., Metro Pacific Investments Corp. and Aboitiz Equity Ventures. In 2016, the Department of Labor and Employment also reported that there were 261 companies with employees who were under voluntary flexible arrangements.

In comparison, a Gallup study on 1,011 adults aged 18 and older in all 50 US states and the District of Columbia showed American companies were more receptible to telecommuting. The study revealed that the number of employees who were or had at one point in their career worked at least one day a month from home had increased by more than 300 percent in the past 20 years.

The same study showed that 37 percent of the employees said they had worked remotely at one point in their career in 2015 as compared to 30 percent in 2006 and nine percent in 1995.

According to the study, 58 percent of the respondents believed those who worked remotely were just as productive as those who worked in an office, up from 47 percent who said the same in 1995. Only 20 percent of them thought telecommuters were less effective on a daily basis than their peers who worked in the office each day.

Villanueva said his committee had looked into the "best practices" in telecommuting to ensure that more employers would adopt the program in their workplace. He said the proposed law would not be mandatory and instead give the employers the discretion on whether to offer telecommuting to their workers or not.

However, Villanueva said, the bill would guarantee that any telecommuting program should not be less than the minimum labor standards set by law. He said employers would ensure that its home-based workers be given the same treatment their peers in the office under the bill.

"Employers must ensure that measures are taken to prevent the telecommuting employees from being isolated from the rest of the working community in the company," Villanueva said.

"The employers should also be responsible for taking the appropriate measures with regard to software to ensure the protection of data used and processed by the telecommunting employee for professional purposes," he added.

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