In The Workplace

We’re a small enterprise with about 200 regular workers, 90% of which have been with us since our establishment 15 years ago. Due to the pandemic, we are looking at the temporary closure of our office for about three months as we don’t have sufficient capital to pay for salaries and benefits. There are only 75 workers who can work from home. Our CEO asked all department managers to prepare for the temporary closure of our office and require employees to go on forced leave without pay. As the head of the human resource department, I believe we can still do something to help the 125 workers who will be temporarily out of work. I pity the workers who have no other means of earning a living. What will happen to them and their families during these three months? Can you please give me your advice? — Gentle Touch.

Today, people and organizations are in crisis mode. Corporate management, in particular, is at a loss how to deal with the devastating effects of this pandemic if only to save their businesses from collapse. Most of the time, however, management will take the easy route by requiring employees to go on leave without pay or even terminate them.

The trouble is that this approach is not a socially-responsible solution, no matter how you look at it. Even if 10,000 businesses opt to lay off hundreds of thousands of their workers, it doesn’t mean it is the right solution to the problem at hand.

As of April 24, the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) announced there are more than two million workers displaced by the temporary closures of various businesses. Out of these two million workers, “over 600,000 personnel reported reduced incomes due to modified working arrangements (fewer workdays, rotation, forced leave, and telecommuting)” according to CNN Philippines.

What is the win-win solution that we can do that would satisfy both labor and management?

There is a solution to almost all problems, including how to manage our current employment situation. The best way is for your management and all other business establishments similarly situated to implement a secondment strategy to help preserve jobs and at the same time maintain business operations. If you’re looking for a socially and morally-responsible way to protect jobs, one ideal option that we can think of is secondment.

But what exactly is secondment? There are two types of secondment — internal and external temporary work arrangements. One, affected employees who are about to lose their jobs are transferred to other units or departments within the same organization to perform work other than their original assignments even outside of their job descriptions.

The transfer may also include assignment away from geographical areas with high incidence of COVID-19 to provincial locations where there are zero or minimal cases.

If internal secondment is not possible, consider external secondment to other business organizations that include affiliates, parent companies, suppliers, customers, and even subcontractors. Choose major companies that can afford to accept your displaced workers on a temporary basis. Distribute your prospective displaced workers to as many friendly organizations that can afford to take them in.

Secondment offers many advantages to both labor and management. It can uncover the hidden talents of employees, and motivate them by letting them know that their employers have gone the extra mile in protecting their jobs, giving people the chance to acquire new skills and experience. It can also improve goodwill between organizations.

In pursuing a secondment strategy, all the terms and conditions must be set down in writing. These include the duration of the secondment, payment of salaries and benefits to be shouldered by the accepting organization based on the employees’ current rate, protections against the loss of trade secrets, and the employer-employee relationship must be retained by the original employer without any loss of seniority and break of employment record.

It’s important for all employers, particularly those in the small-and-medium enterprise (SME) category, to think of protecting the jobs of their workers. Being small is not a good excuse to terminate employment. It’s just a matter of rethinking what’s best for both employers and their employees.

Incidentally, there’s an important and comprehensive tool to help you assess your company’s vulnerability against COVID-19. It’s called the Business Continuity Plan (BCP), especially designed and developed by the International Labor Organization (ILO) for SMEs to help identify their risk profile and assess weaknesses against the adverse effects of the pandemic.

I suggest that before doing any drastic changes and prior to executing the secondment strategy, use the suggested BCP six-step comprehensive form to assess your company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, and evaluate them alongside the ILO’s 4Ps: People (the lives of workers and their families), Processes (enterprise operations), Profits (revenue generation) and Partnerships (enabling environment to carry out business operations).

You can download the form free of charge at


ELBONOMICS: He who fails to plan is planning to fail.

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