The National Economic Development Authority’s (NEDA) proposal for a four-day work week to address high gas prices supports the IT-BPO workers’ call that they be allowed to continue working from home, Sen. Joel Villanueva said.
“Our government should be the first to heed NEDA’s call and apply it to the IT-BPO sector,” Villanueva, chair of the Senate labor committee, said.
“There should be policy cohesion. We cannot encourage industries to explore alternative working arrangements and at the same time order one industry to end remote work,” he added.
Saying that “commuting today is essentially a pay cut,” the senator earlier asked the government to withdraw its ultimatum to IT-BPOs to end remote work of their employees under the pain of losing tax incentives.
Aside from losing part of their wages “to the gas pump or to the fare box,” the return-to-work order “would mean that the budget for the family food would now be eaten up by commuting cost,” Villanueva explained.
Work from home is still one of the “best energy crisis mitigation measures,” he further noted.
“The most fiscally responsible ayuda is the one in which the industry and workers determine their mitigation measures such as that proposed by the IT-BPO workers,” the senator said.
In a letter dated March 17, 2022, Villanueva appealed to the Department of Finance to reconsider the Fiscal Incentive Review Board’s (FIRB) decision that only allows IT-BPO enterprises to implement a work-from-home arrangement up to the end of the month.
Aside from cushioning the impact of increasing oil prices, the senator cited the benefits of WFH in dealing with the ongoing pandemic, as well as its effect in increasing productivity and promoting work-life balance for workers.
The principal author and sponsor of the Telecommuting or Work From Home law said that he “believes that governmental policies should continue to encourage the adoption of alternative work arrangements for the health and welfare of our workers, as well as their employers.”
“While we understand the need to revive our small and medium enterprises (SMEs), options other than requiring workers to return to in-person work should be explored,” Villanueva said in the letter.
As the principal sponsor of Senate Bill No. 1834or the Philippine Digital Workforce Competitiveness Act, the senator also cited these other options to include capacitating SMEs to shift to more digital platforms and equipping the workers in these sectors with the appropriate digital skills.
Villanueva earlier called on the government to work with industries for the full implementation of the Work From Home Law to help businesses and workers cope with rising fuel prices.