Laws to ease workers’ burden
Lost in the organized chaos of the midterm elections is the welcome news on the fate of a number of important measures that would significantly ease the hardships of workers and jobseekers. Two of these, the First Time Job Seekers Assistance Act and the Extended Maternity Leave Act, have been signed into law; another one, the Alternative Working Arrangement bill, has just passed third and final reading in the Senate.
President Duterte signed Republic Act No. 11261, or the First Time Job Seekers Assistance Act, last month, though it was made public only on May 7. Under this law, first-time job applicants no longer have to pay fees for government documents required for employment.
Covered are the following government documents: police clearance certificate, National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) clearance; barangay clearance; medical certificate from public hospitals (except fees and charges for laboratory tests and other medical procedures); birth certificate; marriage certificate; transcript of records from state colleges and universities; taxpayer identification number; Unified
Multi-Purpose ID card; and other documentary requirements that may be required of job applicants.
Applying for work can be an expensive exercise, more so for fresh graduates who have yet to earn their first peso. A police clearance certificate, for instance, costs P100, same as a barangay clearance, while a multipurpose NBI clearance will set back an applicant by P130. Thanks to the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law, a birth certificate from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) Helpline (formerly the National Statistics Office) now costs P365 a copy.
The new law should make it easier and less costly for fresh graduates to apply for and land their first job, instead of joining the 2.2 million unemployed and 5.5 million underemployed Filipinos as of October 2018, based on figures from the PSA.
Meanwhile, employees from the private sector should find some comfort in Senate Bill No. 1571, which would allow them to enjoy an alternative working arrangement while still doing the required eight hours of work for five days. Under this bill, employers and employees may agree to adopt flexible working arrangements, including a four-day work week or compressed work week.
The Senate-approved bill comes two years after the House passed a similar measure, House Bill No. 7402 or the Telecommuting Act, which allows employees to work from home using the latest technological devices.
The Senate’s Alternative Working Arrangement bill is seen to help ease the worsening traffic situation in Metro Manila which, last year, cost the country some P3.5 billion in lost opportunities a day, according to the Japan International Cooperation Agency. With employees riding to and from work at varied hours instead of filling the streets and public transport hubs during those frantic rush hours, a smoother, less stressful commute may be expected.
In fact, based on a global research report from Regus—the world’s largest provider of workplace solutions—nine of 10 companies offering flexible working hours to their staff in the Philippines have attested to its benefits, among them improved productivity, reduced overhead expenses and an improvement in work-life balance that results in increased job satisfaction and motivation.
True, the arrangement may not work for all jobs, especially those in manufacturing and assembly line production, as noted by the Employers Confederation of the Philippines. But in most jobs, flexible working arrangements have resulted in reduced traffic congestion, less air pollution, as well as less work stress and better health for workers.
Just as timely in our rapidly changing workplace is Republic Act No. 11210, or the Expanded Maternity Leave law, which grants working mothers in the government and private sector 105 days of paid maternity leave credits, with seven days transferable to fathers. An additional 15 days of paid leave will be granted to single mothers.
The law gives mothers the option to extend their leave for another 30 days without pay, provided that the employer is given due notice. The measure also removes the four-pregnancy cap and applies to all female workers regardless of civil status. By giving mothers sufficient time to recover after childbirth and nurture their newborns, the law seeks to ensure the well-being and stability of Filipino women and their families, which should help translate to a healthier, more productive workforce.
Small measures with big impacts. Let’s have more of them.
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