Labor Briefing: Flex It, Work It! Setting the Bar on Productivity

By Radka Okruhlanska

Last May 18, 2017, the British Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, together with the American Chamber of Commerce, organized a labor briefing with the theme, “Flex It, Work It! Setting the Bar on Productivity”. The event was held at Dusit Thani Manila.

The event started off with welcome remarks from Chris Nelson, Chairman of the British Chamber, and Ebb Hinchliffe, Executive Director of AmCham. After a delicious lunch, the attendees listened to the speech of Dr. Teresita Cucueco, Director for the Bureau of Working Conditions, a staff bureau of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE). She talked about the Labor Law Compliance System (LLCS), which is a mix of regulatory and developmental approaches in response to rigidities on labor laws compliance, while ensuring decent and productive work. Since this reform was established in 2013, the enforcement of general labor laws has improved a lot in areas of labor standards, company visitation, and worker’s coverage. Additionally, the correction rate went up from 21% to 27% and the system is now online instead of manual.

The second part of her presentation covered the new DO 174, which is about contracting and subcontracting. According to Dr. Cucueco, there should be a tripartite between the principal company, the contractor or subcontractor, and the worker. DO 174 ensures that all workers have a right to labor standards, occupational safety and health standards, social welfare benefits, as well as security of tenure and due process.

The next speaker was Ms. Paola Verayo, AVP — HR of Meralco Shared Services. She shared Meralco’s practices on work place agility. Meralco started with a telecommuting program and Ms. Paola gave insights on the implementation and results of the program. They use the name “iFLEX” for a work from home arrangement, and “iFLEX2” for a flexible working schedule. It started as a pilot program in response to commuting problems, as well as promoting wellness and work-life integration by providing schedules suitable for both employer and employee.

Other reasons behind this program include the reduction in attendance issues, an increase in productivity and employee commitment, enablement of self-discipline and management, and reduction of costs such as travel expenses, travel time and environmental impact. But what do the numbers say? What are the impact and results? 95% of employers say telework has a high impact on employee retention — most of the employees are concerned with the high cost of fuel and think their employers should take a lead in helping them reduce commuting costs. The results of the Meralco program show satisfaction with the program not only by the employees but also the employer.

The third speaker was Senator Joel Villanueva, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Labor who filed Senate Bill NO. 1363 or the Telecommuting Act, an act institutionalizing working from home. The bill is already approved upon its second reading at the Senate. He said that according to a Stanford study, telecommuting increases productivity by 13%, sustains employee motivation, helps with work-life balance, and reduces transportation costs. Furthermore, telecommuting needs a consistent legal framework to ensure that employees who will work from home will be treated similarly as those who work in their company’s premises and will be able to get all the benefits. However, as of the moment, the adoption of a telecommuting program is still optional for a company.

Atty. Trisha Cruz, Senior Associate at Carpo Law & Associates, was the last speaker at the briefing. She raised some questions about the Telecommuting Act, such as: why is it just voluntary? What kind of industry or employee should it be applied to? She suggested that answers to other questions, like who would cover the costs of working from home and other details about the arrangement should be written into the contract and added to the employee manual.

The attendees enjoyed the warm atmosphere during the whole event, the sincere speeches, and the Q&A. With me were fellow JCCI associates Dan Napa and Alice Llamas. Hopefully, all of the problem areas of the Telecommuting Act will be resolved during the following months so that both companies and employees would have the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of this program.

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About the author:

Radka Okruhlanska is an AIESEC intern working as a business development associate for Staffbuilders Asia, a division of John Clements Consultants, Inc. Radka is from Slovakia and studied Finance and Tourism Management in the Czech Republic.