DOLE issued last May 16 guidelines to preserve employment and allocate cost of COVID-19 measures in the workplace.
Client Alert - 25 May 2020
The Department of Labor and Employment (“DOLE”) issued last May 16 guidelines to preserve employment and allocate cost of COVID-19 measures in the workplace.
1. Labor Advisory No. 17 Series of 2020 entitled “Guidelines on Employment Preservation Upon the Resumption of Business Operations” (“LA No. 17”)
LA No. 17 covers all employers and employees in the private sector operating during the community quarantine. It reiterates that employers should comply with the minimum health standards imposed by the government for businesses, such as the “Interim Guidelines on Workplace Prevention and Control of COVID-19”. See our previous client alert on the Interim Guidelines here.
LA No. 17 enumerates the cost-saving measures an employer can adopt in lieu of terminating employees or closing the business, such as reducing the normal workdays per week. It also allows the employer and employee to mutually agree to temporarily adjust the employees’ wage and wage-related benefits as a cost-saving measure. These adjustments will neither exceed 6 months nor the period agreed upon in the collective bargaining agreement, if any. After the said period the employer and employees will review their agreement and may renew the same if necessary.
Finally, LA No. 17 highly encourages businesses to implement work-from-home and telecommuting arrangements for employees.
A full copy of LA No. 17 is provided here.
2. Labor Advisory No. 18 Series of 2020 entitled “Guidelines on the Cost of COVID-19 Prevention and Control Measures" (“LA No. 18”)
LA No. 18 applies to all employers and states that employers will shoulder the cost of COVID-19 prevention and control measures, such as but not limited to: testing, disinfection facilities, hand sanitizers, personal protective equipment, signages, proper orientation and training of workers including IEC materials on COVID-19 prevention and control. In case of contracts for construction projects and for security, janitorial and other services, the cost of COVID-19 prevention and control measures will be borne by the principals or clients of the construction / service contractor.
DOLE clarified last May 18 that employees are not required to undergo COVID-19 testing before going back to work. However, if the employee shows symptoms then the employee must undergo testing. Further, no cost related or incidental to COVID-19 prevention and control measures (i.e. testing of employees) will be charged directly or indirectly to the employee.
A full copy of LA No. 18 may be accessed here.
How do these guidelines affect you?
The recent guidelines reiterate the need for the employer to comply with minimum health standards and ensure the health and safety of employees during the community quarantine. Your business should already be taking steps to comply with these standards to avoid sanctions from the DOLE.
Further, you can consider implementing the cost-saving measures allowed by LA No. 17 to keep your business running and avoid terminating your employees.
If you have any questions regarding these new guidelines and how your business can comply with the same, just send us a message on our Facebook page and we’ll arrange for our Partner Lawyers specializing in labor law to assist you.
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The Legal Tree team