Allow work-from-home amid COVID-19 scare, employers urged

Rodrigo Duterte

A House leader called on employers to consider telecommuting or the stay-at-home work arrangement for their employees after the number of confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) infections in the country increased  to six people over the weekend, including the first case of local transmission that prompted President Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte to declare a state of public health emergency.

“The President’s declaration of a state of public health emergency is timely for the government to ensure the swift deployment of resources to contain the spread of COVID-19, especially now that the Department of Health (DOH) has confirmed three more infections in the country, including the first case of a local transmission,” said Deputy Speaker and Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte.

Villafuerte said the Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) and other company bosses should adopt telecommuting whenever possible, as the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) itself has “encouraged” working at home to reduce the chances for COVID-19 infection among workers.

“With the President declaring a state of public health emergency and the Department of Health (DOH) raising its COVID-19 alert level to Code Red, employers could do their part in helping break the chain of local transmission by adopting, if and when possible, telecommuting for their workers,” Villafuerte said.

“Allowing our people to do their jobs in the safety of their homes would go a long way in helping prevent the spread of this virus among our workers,” he said.

With the sharp increase in COVID-19 cases in South Korea and Japan, he said authorities in these Asian countries have either adopted or pushed the adoption of telecommuting or work-at-home arrangement for workers to stop the further spread of the virus.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said last week that while COVID-19 appears to have peaked already in China, the risk exists that it could grow into a pandemic. It had also raised its global risk assessment to its maximum level from “high” to “very high.” 

The Department of Tourism (DOT) has cancelled at the last minute the month-long Philippine Shopping Festival this March to protect public health amid the rise in infections and deaths outside China.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III was quoted by the media last Saturday  saying that working from home is now “encouraged” to reduce the chances for infection among workers, but he added: “It should be an arrangement between the employer and employee ... May consensus dapat. Walang sapilitan ‘yan.”

Meanwhile, Senator  Christopher Go said the President “has agreed” to declare a state of public health emergency after the Department of Heath (DOH) confirmed over the weekend three more COVID-19 infections, including a 62-year-old Filipino with no history of international travel and who had frequented the prayer room for Muslims at the Greenhills shopping center in San Juan City. 

The sixth person found positive for the virus by the DOH was this man’s wife while the fourth one was the Deloitte employee at the Bonifacio Global City in Taguig City who travelled to Japan last month.