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 Secretary Silvestre Bello III on Monday issued guidelines on how best employers can protect jobs, and prevent layoffs and retrenchments.

In a separate advisory, meanwhile, DOLE also said the cost of preventing the spread of COVID-19 in workplaces as provided for in its joint guidelines with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) should be shouldered by employers.

Labor Advisory No. 17 “highly encourages” work-from-home and telecommuting for employees in businesses and industries already allowed to resume operations under the modified enhanced community quarantine or general community quarantine.

It 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:

  1. Transfer of employee to another branch;
  2. Assignment of employee to another function or position, in the same or another branch or outlet;
  3. Reduction of normal workdays or workhours;
  4. Job rotations;
  5. Partial closure of an establishment while some department or unit is continued; and
  6. 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.

“We know that businesses have suffered so much, but for the sake of our economy we encourage them to dig deeper into their vast reserve of charity and benevolence so that their workers and the communities can continue to further weather this crisis that we are all facing and fighting together,” Bello said.

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 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.