IN THE MIDDLE | career advancement

Senate bill pushes for workers’ ‘right to disconnect’

By Alyanna Silvestre
Published February 03, 2022

A bill proposing penalties on employers who require their employees to work during workers’ breaks and rest hours has been filed in the Senate.

Senate Bill (SB) No. 2475, authored by Sen. Francis Tolentino, aims to protect the rest hours of Filipino employees and set penalties for employers violating the measure to protect and promote the right to health and welfare of workers.

In explaining the reason behind the bill, Tolentino cited the downside of work-from-home arrangements, “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. 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.”

According to the bill or the Workers’ Rest Law, normal work hours should not exceed eight hours a day, while those on a compressed workweek arrangement with fewer work days should not work over 12 hours daily. Any period other than the hours of work should then be considered the employees’ rest hours, where employees may not be compelled to deliver overtime work unless allowed by labor laws or they have given written consent.

Without the said written consent, the bill prohibits employers, managers, supervisors, or any of their agents from:

1. Requiring the employee to work

2. Requiring the employee to be on duty, to travel, or be at a prescribed place for work or work-related activities, such as attending seminars, meetings, team-building, and other similar activities; or

3. Contacting the employee for work and work-related purposes by any form of communication, unless it is to render emergency or urgent work.

    Under the bill, employers are also not allowed to penalize employees 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, but 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 excludes employees on a work-from-home arrangement and telecommuting employees as defined by Republic Act 11165.

    An employee is entitled to P1,000 per hour if there’s no overtime work arrangement and they are troubled outside the hours of their duty, that is, if the employee provides substantial evidence.

    If the employee who asserted his or her right under the proposed measure is limited or classified in a way that would discriminate, deprive or diminish 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 be 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.

    Senate of the Philippines