According to a 2017 study, Filipinos spend an average of an hour and six minutes each day in traffic. For many employees who commute to and from work, that’s a lot of time wasted that they could have spent on other meaningful things, like bonding with their families. With the worsening traffic situation, it’s unlikely that it will get better any time soon.
Working from home seems to be a valid solution except not all companies allow flexible work hours. But that may soon change as the House of Representatives (HOR) approved House Bill No. 7402 or the Telecommuting Act for the third and final reading yesterday, May 28. The Senate’s counterpart version, Senate Bill No. 1363 or the Telecommuting Act of 2017 was passed on May 22, according to a report by Rappler.
The bill was primarily created to protect home-based workers. It seeks to give employees the option to work outside the office through telecommuting. According to the bill, telecommuting is defined as a ‘flexible working arrangement where the employee may work in an alternative workplace with the use of telecommunication or computer technologies.’
Under the bill, the telecommuting program must not be less than the minimum labor standards set by law and should include compensable work hours, a minimum number of work hours, overtime, rest days, and entitlement to leave benefits, says Rappler. Companies must also ensure that employees working from home are treated the same as those working in the office.
Those who authored the bill — Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte and Quezon City Rep. Alfred Vargas for the HOR, and senators Joel Villanueva and Cynthia Villar for the Senate — believe that giving this option to employees can reap a number of benefits.
“Aside from promoting work-life balance, the bill also seeks to address traffic congestion and its tremendous effect on the country’s economy,” said Sen. Villanueva in a statement.
“It improves organization retention, employee performance, and customer satisfaction,” said Rep. Vargas, in a report by The Philippine Star. “It also leads to a better health condition for employees as telecommuting lessens their exposure to pollution.
Both the House of Representatives and the Senate have approved their versions of the bill. The bill will now go through a bicameral conference committee so both chambers can reconcile their versions. The two chambers will then need to ratify it before it is brought to President Rodrigo Duterte to approve and sign into law.
This is definitely good news for parents, especially for working moms who often feel guilty about missing quality time with their kids. The option to work from home will not only give them more freedom to manage their time but it will also ease the pressure that they feel when leaving their children for work every day.
This law would have complemented the Expanded Maternity Leave Bill, which seeks to give new mothers more time to recover from childbirth and focus on her postpartum care. However, while the Senate has already approved its version of the bill, the House of Representatives has yet to pass its own.
In March, Sen. Risa Hontiveros, who authored the Senate version of the bill, urged the HOR to act on the landmark law.
"It's an investment really in our society, in our women now, in future students who are their kids, who are the companies future workers, managers, entrepreneurs," Sen. Hontiveros said in an article by SmartParenting.com.ph. "The bigger picture thinking is what's good for the employee is good for the employers and what's good for the company is good for the economy. And of course, what's good for the economy is good for the society and all the families that make it up."