The government and business process outsourcing (BPO) companies should come to an “acceptable compromise” over the state’s decision that they end work-from-home (WFH) arrangements for their employees by April 1 or lose their tax incentives, Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda said Wednesday.
Salceda, chairman of the House committee on ways and means, said he will ask the Fiscal Incentives Review Board and the BPO companies to reach an agreement.
“I think the compromise is, okay, onsite work is back, but arrangements can be made for those who went home to the provinces, are immuno-compromised, or have special conditions that prevent them from working on-site. The Work From Home setup has made the BPO sector more inclusive, especially for parents with young children and those who care for loved ones at home,” Salceda said.
“So, I want unified guidelines from the FIRB, the Department of Labor and Employment, and the Philippine Economic Zone Authority about what arrangements can be made,” Salceda added.
Salceda also wants to know how large of a “tax leak” the FIRB is worried about.
“I just want to know the costs and benefits of the policy they’re insisting on. I mean, NEDA on the one hand is proposing a four-day work week. I think we can experiment with that here. Four days onsite, and one day home for most BPO workers,” Salceda added.
He stressed “some BPO firms may be saving a lot of money from not having to rent spaces or pay utilities. And that could be skewing the cost-benefit analysis for tax incentives, meaning we are getting less economic activities for the same tax perks.”
Previous government guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic allowed BPOs to avail of tax perks even with 90 percent of their workforce working from home.
“I get where Secretary Dominguez is coming from. But the principle of CREATE is to encourage exports regardless of where they locate, so that has to be weighed also,” Salceda said.
Salceda also emphasized “the DOLE has also been clear that those who cannot work onsite but can still deliver their output cannot be fired for that reason. So, in consequence, BPOs can make internal arrangements,” Salceda said.
The House tax chair plans to convene the FIRB, PEZA, DOLE, and BPO firms “this month to get people together and come up with a mutually acceptable compromise.”
Meanwhile, the presidential adviser for entrepreneurship, Joey Concepcion, said he supported the proposed four-day workweek in keeping with the government’s goal to keep the engines of the economy going.
“Whether it’s a four-day workweek or a hybrid/flexible work arrangement, let’s not lose sight of the goal,” he said Wednesday.
Reiterating the importance of increased economic activity, he noted that the return of employees to on-site work will encourage economic activity.
“Many small businesses such as cafeterias and transportation are built around employees’ presence in the offices. Encouraging people to return to the offices will spur economic activity among these MSMEs,” Concepcion said.
However, he believes that while hybrid work or a continuation of WFH arrangements may be possible for white-collar jobs and even BPOs, it may not be the case for employees who need to perform on-site work in manufacturing plants, render essential services, or handle physical goods.