President Rodrigo Duterte has signed into law Republic Act 11165, also known as “An Act Institutionalizing Telecommuting as an Alternative Work Arrangement for Employees in the Private Sector.” The bill was authored by Senator Joel Villanueva.

Aside from promoting a healthy work-life balance for Filipino workers, the law also aims to alleviate the traffic congestion, especially in Metro Manila.

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Here's what you need to know about flexible working arrangements.

What is telecommuting?

Section 3 of the Republic Act defines telecommuting as “a work arrangement that allows an employee in the private sector to work from an alternative workplace with the use of telecommunication and/or computer technologies.”

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Who will be entitled to the work-from-home option?

Only employees of the private sector are entitled to the telecommuting option, provided that their employers offer it.

Section 4 of the law states that the program is available on a “voluntary basis,” which means the employer has the prerogative whether or not to draw up the terms and conditions of such work arrangements. Once an employer decides to implement the program in a company, the employer shall provide the employee all the relevant information in written form, which the employee has to mutually agree with first before the set-up takes place.

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How different are telecommuting employees from on-site employees?

The law mandates employers to give telecommuting employees the same treatment and benefits they give to their colleagues who choose to work at the company’s premises.

This includes the same rate of pay, overtime and night shift differential, and other similar monetary benefits. The employee should also be entitled to the same policies regarding pay raise, as well as rights to rest periods, regular holidays and special non-working days.

Moreover, telecommuting workers and their fellow employees in the office should be given the same or comparable workload and performance standards, as well as access to training and career development opportunities.

The only difference from on-site employees, if there is any, is that telecommuting employees should be trained in the usage of the tech equipment at their disposal and should be well-briefed in the nature and conditions of the agreed telecommuting setup. This is simply because on-site employees have no need for such training.

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Can telecommuting employees still join unions?

Yes, because the law mandates employers to provide the same rights to telecommuting employees. Under the Fair Treatment section of RA 11165, telecommuting workers should have the same collective rights and shall always have open communication lines with the workers’ representatives.

It also states that the employers are responsible for ensuring telecommuting employees will not be isolated from the workforce, by providing them access to company information and opportunities to meet with their colleagues on a regular basis.

Who is responsible for the protection of data used for professional purposes?

Under section 6 of the law, both the employer and telecommuting employee shall take responsibility for all the data used and processed by both parties for work purposes.

The employer shall take the appropriate measures to make sure the employee is capable of protecting the data, by properly informing him/her of all relevant laws and company rules on data protection. In return, the employee has a responsibility to ensure that confidential and proprietary information he/she has on his/her end are safeguarded at all times.

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“For this purpose, the provisions of the Data Privacy Act of 2012 shall have suppletory effect,” the law reads.

When does the law take effect and when can employees expect to be entitled to this work-from-home option?

Duterte signed the bill into law on December 20, 2018 and it was published in the Official Gazette on January 11, 2019. It will take effect 15 days after publication, which is on February 27. However, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) will still have to meet with the National Tripartite Industrial Peace Council and relevant stakeholders to draft the appropriate implementing rules and regulation of the law, which they have to issue within 60 days from the effectivity of the Act.

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This story originally appeared on Esquiremag.ph.

* Minor edits have been made by the Femalenetwork.com editors.

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