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Senate bill mandates workers’ rest hours

A bill seeking to prohibit and penalize employers who contact or ask their employees to report for duty outside their working hours is being pushed in the Senate. 

Senator Francis Tolentino filed Senate Bill 2475 or the Workers’ Rest Law to uphold the policy of the state to promote the health of the public and protect the rights of workers to privacy and personal time.

SB 2475 prohibits employers, managers, supervisors, or any other agents to do the following unless the employee gives his/her consent:

  • require the employee to work during rest hours
  • require the employee to be on duty, to travel, or be at a prescribed place for work or work-related activities such as seminars, meetings, team building, and other similar activities during rest hours
  • contacting the employee for work and work-related purposes through phone, e-mail, message, and other means of communication, unless it is for the purpose of notifying the employee of the necessity of rendering emergency or urgent work as provided under Article 89 and 92 of the Labor Code of the Philippines

It also prohibits the employer to penalize its workers for not opening or answering communications received during rest hours.

This bill will cover employees in all establishments and undertakings, whether for profit or not.

This, however, exempts field personnel, domestic helpers, persons in the personal service of another, and workers who are paid by results.

The measure defines field personnel as non-agricultural employees who regularly perform their duties away from the principal place of business or branch office of the employer and whose actual hours of work in the field cannot be determined with reasonable certainty.

This definition excluded employees who are on a work-from-home arrangement and telecommuting employees as defined by Republic Act 11165.

Under Section 5 of the bill, an employee may not be compelled to render overtime work, unless otherwise allowed by Section 89 of the Labor Code of the Philippines, or unless the employee freely gives their written consent to render overtime work.

Any waiver of the right to rest hours or any advance consent to perform overtime work as a condition for employment, re-employment, or continued employment shall be void.

Individuals who violate the provisions of the proposed measure shall pay the employee P1,000 per hour of work rendered, but substantial evidence should be provided by the employee.

If the violation of Section 5 of the measure is attended with violence, threats, or intimidation, the offender shall face punishments for Grave Coercion under Article 286 of the Revised Penal Code with the penalty next higher in degree imposed.

If the employee who asserted his or her right under the proposed measure is limited, discriminated, deprived or diminished their employment opportunities, the offender shall face imprisonment of one to six months and a fine of not less than P100,000.

Should the violation is committed by a corporation, trust, firm, partnership, association, or any other entity, the penalty shall be imposed upon the guilty officer or officers of the said organization.

Work from home arrangements

In explaining his bill, Tolentino said work-from-home arrangements have benefits to employees but it has “thinned the line between work and personal space and time.

“Similarly, due to advances in technology, employees are now virtually always at the beck and call of their employers. The power of control of employers now overreaches beyond working hours through the use of phone and email,” he said.

“This blurring between working time and private time has become more pronounced during the pandemic because of the increase in the number of employees on a work-from-home or telecommuting arrangements,” the lawmaker added.

He cited a research by Eurofound which showed that people who work regularly from home are more than twice as likely to surpass the maximum of 48 working hours per week, compared to those working on their employer’s premises.

Almost 30% of those working from home are working during their free time every day or several times a week, compared to less than 5% of office workers, he noted.

Tolentino also mentioned the enactment of a similar law in France in 2017, and the push for this right in Germany and Ireland and Portugal.

“This bill defines the rest hours of employees, and prohibits employers from exacting work or contacting employees, without the latter's consent, during rest hours,” he said.

“An employer that violates the prohibitions set in this bill will be penalized with a monetary sanction and a fine, or with imprisonment if attended with coercion or resulted in discrimination,” he added. — RSJ, GMA News