The Department of Labor and Employment – National Capital Region (DOLE-NCR) through its MUNTAPARLAS Field Office (MTPLFO) convened the members of the Business Process Outsourcing – Industry Tripartite Council (BPO-ITC) on the “Telecommuting Act” (Republic Act No. 11165) on April 22, 2022, to remind participants of the fundamental features of said law and to address work-from-home (WFH) woes of said industry.

Held in a virtual conference, the meeting was attended by some 22 participating BPOs within the MUNTAPARLAS (Muntinlupa, Taguig, Parañaque, Las Piñas) jurisdiction. With the passing of the said law, the BPO sector served as one of the key players in the telecommuting arrangement due to its nature of work and its capacity to transition to a digitalized set-up. At the onset of the pandemic, said sector had maximized the implementation of telecommuting in their workplace in response to the immediate need of digitalizing operations and combating the consequential effect on work disruption due to IATF restrictions.

More so, relative to the Philippine Economic Zone Authority’s (PEZA) rules on the limitation of WFH set-up in the BPO industries amid the downgrading of Metro Manila to Alert Level 1, a comprehensive discussion by the labor department on the pertinent issues and concerns on the Telecommuting Act and WFH policies proved to be timely and relevant for the BPO-ITC members.

Ms. Lovely Grace B. Zaballa of the DOLE-Bureau of Working Conditions (BWC) discussed the rules and guidelines of the Telecommuting Act and emphasized that “telecommuting” is a mutual work arrangement voluntarily agreed upon by both the employer and employee to allow an alternate workplace with the use of telecommunication and/or computer technologies for greater work flexibility.

In addition, she further said that employees under the Telecommuting Act shall receive the same worker benefits and rights as with an onsite employee such as, but not limited to, compliance with the General Labor Standards (GLS) and Occupational Safety and Health Standards (OSHS). Accordingly, the TWA agreement must not go below minimum DOLE guidelines.

MTPLFO Director Leonides P. Castillon, Jr. stressed the jurisdictional aspect of the TWA reporting. Castillon, Jr. said that industries must submit their reports on TWA to the appropriate field offices based on their establishment’s location. He expounded that DOLE-NCR, comprising of six (6) field offices, accepts report submissions of BPO industries within their area of jurisdiction.

The pressing issue of the 70-30 work ratio of PEZA-registered establishments was tackled in the open forum. It was clarified that the PEZA directive is not encompassing all BPO industries. Under the PEZA issuance, starting April 1, 2022, all PEZA-registered IT-BPOs can only implement up to a 30% WFH arrangement to continue receiving tax breaks from the government. In turn, it was explained that said work ratio is only applicable to IT-BPOs located within the economic zone that are registered to PEZA to receive tax incentives. BPOs which are not included can still impose a 100% WFH scheme.

On the matter of refusal of the WFH staff to report onsite, the labor department said that this is subject to the existing company policy present in their company. In light of this, the MTPLFO head said that due to the pronouncement of PEZA, its registered BPOs, which are part of the tax incentive scheme of the government, must strictly comply with the maximum WFH work ratio.

In conclusion, Castillon, Jr. perceives the need to produce a formal resolution on the joint stance, proposal, and recommendation of the BPO-ITC members on PEZA’s 70-30 work ratio for further consideration of policymakers.

DOLE-NCR through its MTPLFO Tripartite Industrial Peace Council (TIPC) shall continue to conduct consultative forums and social dialogues to attain greater productivity, harmonious relationship, and growth in the workplace.

END / Christinne Jeremiah B. Torrecampo