Firms may extend temporary displacement of workers

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THE Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) has allowed employers to extend the period of temporary displacement of their workers beyond the six-month maximum period provided for under the Labor Code.

However, Labor Undersecretary Benjo Santos M. Benavidez said in a virtual briefing on Wednesday that the latest department order does not permit companies to impose a longer period of floating employment for their employees unless this is agreed by both parties. 

Sa tingin namin, ito ay mas nakakabuti sa manggagawa sa level nila kesa sila tanggalin, ay magkaraoon sila ng extension sa kanilang floating status kasi dahan-dahan bumabalik na ang sigla ng ating ekonomiya, dahan-dahan na din nakikitang negosyong nagbubukas (We think this is better for the workers. Instead of getting laid off, workers can extend their floating status because the economy is gradually getting better and businesses are slowly reopening,” Mr. Benavidez said.

The DoLE Department Order (DO) 215-20 published on Tuesday amended rules of the Labor Code on the suspension of employment relationship. The period of suspension for employees must not exceed six months if businesses suspend their operations but this period can be extended in the case of national crisis through mutual negotiations.

“In the case of declaration of war, pandemic, and similar national emergencies, the employer and the employees, through the union, if any, or with the assistance of the Department of Labor and Employment, shall meet in good faith for the purpose of extending the suspension of employment for a period not exceeding six (6) months,” the order said.

The DoLE order also said employees shall not lose employment if they find alternative work during the period of the extended suspension unless they resign from the company.

If the employer needs to retrench workers during the suspension period, workers will still be entitled to separation pay.

“In the absence of the extension, I think they have to provide some avenue for workers and employees who would prefer this because many companies still don’t know if they will close down or not,” Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECoP) President Sergio R. Ortiz-Luis, Jr. said in a phone interview.

While he agrees with the provision allowing employees to find alternative work during the suspension period without losing their original employment, Mr. Ortiz-Luis said employees have a maximum of one month to report back to work.

“If they cannot report, the company does not have the responsibility to rehire them,” he added.

However, labor groups opposed the DoLE order, saying it is “illegal.”

“There are no measures in place for the DoLE to verify if the extension of suspension is actually necessary for a company’s survival. Employers merely have to notify DoLE of the extension 10 days prior to its effectiveness. As such, DO 215 can be used as another tool for union-busting and other unfair labor practices,” Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP) Luke Espiritu said in a statement. — G.M. Cortez