Sen. Francis N. Tolentino (file)

Employers who require their employees to work, attend face-to-face or virtual meetings, and/or answer emails even beyond the official working hours or during weekends, holidays and vacation leaves will get penalized if a Senate bill is passed into law.

Sen. Francis Tolentino filed Senate Bill No. 2475 or the proposed “Worker’s Rest Law” which imposes penalties on employers who intrude on workers’ “rest hours” by adding more tasks and setting-up meetings that go beyond the official work hours, eating up the employee’s personal time.

Tolentino highlighted how that remote work arrangements used by most companies to cope with the Covid-19 pandemic thinned the line between work and the worker’s personal time.

“For instance, instead of destressing at home from the pressures of work, work is now brought to the employees’ homes or wherever they go. Similarly, due to advances in technology, employees are now virtually always at the beck and call of their employers,” he said.

“The power of control of employers now overreaches beyond working hours through the use of phone and email,” he added.

Tolentino said the bill prohibits employers from “exacting work or contacting employees, without the latter’s consent, during rest hours”.

The bill defines rest hours as any period other than the hours of work rendered by the employee. Under Philippine labor laws, normal work hours must not exceed eight hours a day.

“The hours of work of employees on a Compressed Workweek arrangement shall not exceed twelve (12) hours a day,” it adds.

Under 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.”

It also prevented the employer from asking the employee to waive their right to rest hours or through any advance consent to perform overtime work as a condition in the employment, re-employment, or continued employment.

It also prohibits employers from:

  • requiring the employee to work
  • 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
  • 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 Article 92 of the Labor Code.
  • penalizing employees for not opening or answering communications received during rest hours

A P1,000 per hour of work rendered in violation of the proposed law will be imposed on the offending employer if found guilty.

“Substantial evidence is sufficient to prove the violation and number of hours worked,” according to the bill.

Other penalties include imprisonment of not less than one month and not more than six months with a fine of not less than P100,000. – Rommel F. Lopez