The impact inflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic according to Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III could cause the loss of up to five million jobs in the country by the end of the year 2020.

Around 2.6 million workers have so far been displaced amid the pandemic. Basing on the data by the Labor Department, there are around 93,621 establishments in the formal sector implemented temporary closure while other businesses opted to implement alternative work arrangements, thus resorting to flexible work schemes resulting in fewer workdays, rotation, forced leave and telecommuting. Majority of the jobs at risk are from the service sector as well as the tourism industry, particularly the allied businesses like restaurants and transportation.

In terms of number of workers affected, the National Capital Region (NCR) leads the roster, with close to 900,000 workers, the other regions with the highest number of Covid-displaced workers are Region 3 (Central Luzon) with 295,000; Region 11 (Davao Region), 205,000; Region 10 (Northern Mindanao), 166,000; and Region 4A (Calabarzon), 165,000. Regions with the least affected workers are Region 12 (Socsargen) with 28,000 displaced workers; Region 1 (Ilocos Region), 32,000; Caraga Region, 47,000; Region 8 (Eastern Visayas), 55,000; and Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) with 68,000 workers.

As a result of the economic crisis created by the pandemic, for millions of workers, no income means no food, no security and no future. These are the real faces of the world of work, both for the formal and informal sectors of society.

The labor department is pushing for the preservation of employment by businesses and enterprises as the country slowly transitions into the new normal amid the global health pandemic.

Labor Advisory No. 17, Series of 2020 “, the guidelines on employment preservation upon the resumption of business operation applies to all employers and their employees regardless of employment status in the private sector operating or allowed to resume business operations under the modified enhanced community quarantine or general community quarantine.

The labor advisory “highly encourages” work-from-home and telecommuting for employees in businesses and industries and also spells out a menu of alternative work arrangements that employers may resort to in order to forestall further business reverses, while at the same time protecting jobs, preventing closures and termination of workers.

These alternative work schemes include the following: transfer of employee to another branch; assignment of employee to another function or position, in the same or another branch or outlet; reduction of normal workdays or workhours; job rotations; partial closure of an establishment while some department or unit is continued; and other schemes that is necessary or peculiar for the survival of a specific business or establishment.

The guidelines likewise strongly advise employers to employ various wage and benefits schemes necessary for the continuance of business and employment in coordination with their workers and in conjunction with agreed company policies and their respective collective bargaining agreements (CBAs); provided that the said adjustments in wage and benefits should not exceed six months, or the period mandated in their CBAs.

In instances when termination of employment becomes unavoidable, the advisory said emoluments for workers removed for cause should follow the provisions of existing laws.

The guidelines also required employers to submit reports to the DOLE Regional or field offices on the adaption of any, or all, of the provisions of the advisory.

Meanwhile, in Labor Advisory No. 18, DOLE said that the prevention and control of the COVID-19 virus in a specific work place, business, or industry shall be borne by the employer. It emphasized that employers, contractors and subcontractors, or their principals, should shoulder expenses in the conduct of the following prevention and control measures: testing of employees; disinfection of facilities; provision of hand sanitizers; procurement of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs), such as facemasks; putting up of signages; the orientation and training of workers including the provision of IEC materials on COVID-19 prevention and control; and other measures necessary to fight and protect their workers and employees.

These minimum health standards are contained in the joint DOLE-DTI Interim Guidelines on Workplace Prevention and Control of COVID-19, dated April 30; Department Order No. 35, dated May 3, 2020 on Construction Safety Guidelines for the Implementation of all DPWH Projects During the COVID-19 Public Health Crisis; and Department Memorandum No. 2020-0220, dated May 11, 2020, on the Interim Guidelines for the Return-To-Work, issued by the Department of Health (DOH). For contractual workers; such as security guards, maintenance crews and janitorial workers the expenses shall be borne by the principal, or client, of the contractor or subcontractor.

END/Patrick T. Rillorta