Project-based employment for an HR officer

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Rey Elbo-125

In The Workplace

I received a job offer from another company that is pirating me from my current company, where I’m a regular employee. My prospective boss agreed to give me a lucrative pay and perk package for the post of a human resource officer. However, the job on a one-year project employment basis with the possibility of renewal and on to my eventual regular status. What do you think? Please advise before I accept the offer. — Ludicrous Delight.

There’s an ancient Chinese proverb that goes something like this: “If you wish to be happy for one hour, get intoxicated. If you wish to be happy for three days, get married. If you wish to be happy for eight days, kill your pig and eat it. If you wish to be happy forever, learn to fish.”

But how can you fish in a river that could be dry in one year? Would you be truly happy with your desired salary and benefits in the short term? Maybe, for the first few months. But wait until you reach your 10th month of project employment when your constant focus will be on the renewal or non-renewal of your contract. Would that be enough motivation for you given that you are giving up your current regular job?

What’s the point of having your desired compensation when at the end of one year you’ll be jobless? Sure, there’s a promise that the contract may be renewed. Haven’t you heard that promises are made to be broken? Further, the biggest question that you must resolve is — why does your prospective employer want to classify your job as project-based?

How do we define project-based employment? A project employee under Article 280 (now Article 294) 18 of the Labor Code, as amended, “is one whose employment has been fixed for a specific project or undertaking, the completion or termination of which has been determined at the time of the engagement of the employee.”

It appears now some unscrupulous employers are changing their approach since President Rodrigo R. Duterte has made good of his election campaign promise to eradicate “endo” or end of contract, also known as cyclical hiring and rehiring of employees every five months. Further, since many job applicants would readily reject job offers if they are passed on to a manpower agency, some dubious employers are now using project employment as a ploy to entice people only to be left hanging when their contract expires.

Lawyer Raul Palabrica says in his column at the Philippine Daily Inquirer: “To go around the rules on regularization of employees, some employers compel their employees to enter into project employment contracts. Under existing regulations, an employment is not considered regular if it is for a specific project or undertaking whose completion has been pre-determined at the time of the employment. This provision, however, has been exploited to avoid the grant of certain benefits to employees which they would otherwise be entitled to.”

Palabrica cites the 2014 case of Jeannette V. Manalo vs. TNS Philippines which was decided by the Supreme Court in favor of the employee. Since then, the high court has issued several judgments including the 2015 case of Ma. Charito C. Gadia, et al vs. Sykes Asia which distinguishes between a project employee and a regular employee: “A project employee is assigned to a project which begins and ends at determined or determinable times. Unlike regular employees who may only be dismissed for just and/or authorized causes under the Labor Code, the services of employees who are hired as ‘project [-based] employees’ may be lawfully terminated at the completion of the project.”

The high court declares in the Sykes Asia case that “for an employee to be considered project-based, the employer must show compliance with two (2) requisites, namely that: (a) the employee was assigned to carry out a specific project or undertaking; and (b) the duration and scope of which were specified at the time they were engaged for such project.”

The petitioner-employees lost the case as the high court declared them project-based employees and not regular employees. Watch out. This could be another possible loophole in our jurisprudence that your prospective employer is trying to explore. The most important thing to understand here is why would they want the post of an HR officer to be project-based?

The HR function is considered vital, necessary and desirable in any business.

It’s a red flag and I hope I’m wrong about my suspicions. Unless your prospective employer is a micro business where the owner performs all the managerial tasks, I can’t think of any cogent and valid reason for any company to declare the HR function as temporary in nature, similar to the other project-based employees like architects, carpenters, plumbers, masons, and pipe fitters, whose employment contract is co-terminus with the construction of an office building or condominium.

Money is not everything. You may be tempted to accept higher pay from another employer but how long can your project-based employment sustain it? Besides, there are many things you should consider outside of the pay and perk package. For one, you must also consider your seniority rights at your current job. And two, how about the management style of your future boss and that of your possible colleagues?

Look before you leap. You may be jumping from the frying pan to the fire.


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