THE Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) backed measures to facilitate the adoption of alternative work arrangements on a voluntary basis, on the condition that companies continue to pay overtime and night differentials.

DoLE outlined its position before the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development on Monday when it tackled Senate Bills 153 and 673, which amend Presidential Decree No. 442, or the Labor Code of the Philippines to authorize more flexible work arrangements.

Senator Emmanuel Joel J. Villanueva, who chairs the panel, said previous amendments nearly made it past the 17th Congress, having gone as far as the bicameral conference committee.

“We were able to pass this on third reading. We were about to conduct the Bicameral Conference Committee kaso hindi po natuloy (but it didn’t go through),” Mr. Villanueva told the panel.

He noted that in the previous Congress, deliberations stalled on the application of benefits such as overtime pay and night differential pay.

“This is pursuant to our existing policy to recognize voluntary work arrangements between companies and their employees that is mutually beneficial and does not diminish existing standards and benefits such as overtime pay premium and night shift differential,” Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III said.

The bills seek to introduce a new provision in the Code permitting alternative work arrangements in cases of national emergency or by agreement between the employer and employee; provided that the total work hours do not exceed 48 hours per week.

Mr. Bello also proposed adopting a compressed work week as an alternative.

“As a form of alternative work arrangement, a compressed work week promotes work life balance and productivity as well as competitiveness of industry,” Mr. Bello said.

“We suggest that the hours of work in any given working day, under a compressed work week shall not exceed 12 hours.”

He also proposed that DoLE be given authority to limit the applicability of a compressed work week, taking into account the job performed and the health and safety of workers involved.

The Nagkaisa Labor Coalition told the panel there is no need to legislate a compressed work week. “With the existing rules and regulations promulgated by the DoLE for temporary situations, I think those rules will do at present,” Chairman Sonny Matula said. — Charmaine A. Tadalan