The coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic poses a very serious threat to lives and businesses alike. The lockdown or community quarantine, particularly the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) and modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ), closed down many establishments. Here are some of the options for employers/establishments:
1. BUSINESS AS USUAL
This is the preferred option, for both the company and the employees. The COVID-19 problem is just another challenge for entrepreneurs or business owners. There are, of course, regulatory roadblocks. As noted in the 5-step guide for employers, owners/managers must consider intrazonal and interzonal travel rules, as well as availability of transportation for employees. Businesses must comply with office health requirements and must cover the expenses for such requirements.
2. PERMANENT CLOSURE, PARTIAL OR TOTAL
A company has the prerogative to close a part or the entire business, for good. Downsizing, whether in the form of closure certain departments or retrenchment, is allowed. If the closure is based on serious business losses, there is no need for separation pay. In case of closure for any other good faith reasons, or retrenchment, separation pay is needed. The termination of employees must be reported to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).
As opposed to retrenchment which requires business losses, redundancy is likewise available when personnel exceed the reasonable needs of the business, because of a shrinking market or some other reasons. Separation pay and report to the DOLE are also required.
The DOLE is encouraging companies not to resort with these two options, and utilize other alternations, all discussed below.
4. TEMPORARY CLOSURE
Partial closure of establishment is an option where some units or departments of the establishment are continued while some units or departments are closed. This is one of the alternatives provided in Labor Advisory No. 17. The no-work, no-pay rule applies.
5. TELECOMMUTING, INCLUDING WORK-FROM-HOME (WFH)
Establishments are, when feasible, highly encouraged to adopt work-from-home or implement telecommuting arrangement. Telecommuting is already allowed under existing law and regulation. Employees of work-from-home or telecommuting arrangement shall be provided with adequate support to perform the assigned task of job.
6. FLEXIBLE WORK ARRANGEMENTS
A flexible work arrangement is an alternative arrangement or schedule other than the traditional or standard workhours, workdays and workweek. These alternatives are remedial measures in view COVID-19. These work arrangements are better alternatives than outright termination of the services of the employees or total closure of establishments. Employers and employees are encouraged to explore alternative work arrangements, including the following:
- (i) Reduction of Workhours and/or Workdays — normal workhours or workdays per week are reduced.
- (ii) Rotation of Workers — employees are rotated or alternately provided work within the week.
- (iii) Forced Leave — employees are required to go on leave for several days or weeks utilizing their leave credits, if there are any.
There are requirements for the implementation of these alternative arrangements. Per Labor Advisory No. 9-20, the flexible work arrangements may be implemented AFTER consultation with the employees. The employer shall notify the DOLE, using the prescribed form (Establishment Report On Covid-19), through the Regional / Provincial / Field Office which has jurisdiction over the workplace.
7. ALTERNATIVE WORK SCHEMES
As an alternative to termination of employment or closure of business, any or a combination of the following may be adopted:
- (i) Transfer of employees to another branch or outlet of the same employer;
- (ii) Assignment of employees to other function or position in the same or other branch or outlet of the same employer;
- (iii) Reduction of normal workdays per day or week;
- (iv) Job rotation alternately providing workers with work within the workweek or within the month; and
- (v) Other feasible work arrangements considering specific peculiarities of different business requirements.
Per Labor Advisory No. 17, series of 2020, these Alternative Work Schemes and Flexible Work Arrangements are temporary in nature and shall be adopted for as long as the public health crisis exists.