The past months have proven to be extremely difficult for most, if not all, business. World Bank predicts that the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to plunge most countries into recession by 2020. Advanced economies are projected to shrink by 7% while emerging markets and developing countries by 2.5%.
The Asian Development Bank forecasts that the Philippine economy will contract by 7.3% as 2020 ends before it rebounds to a 6.5% growth in 2021. Philippine Department of Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez stated that out of the 1,500,000 registered businesses, around 90,000, or 6%, micro small and medium enterprises (MSME) remain closed. Secretary Ramon Lopez further shares that this is a huge decrease from 38% closure in April and 11% in June. Unfortunately, these numbers do not appear reassuring for most Filipino businessmen.
Given the above economic landscape for the rest of the year until 2021, the Philippine government has initiated efforts on how to help small business owners to keep their businesses afloat. And one of these efforts may be seen on the labor front.
In response to the growing number of employees being laid-off, the Philippine Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has released various issuances suggesting flexible and alternative work arrangements during the pandemic. According to DOLE, flexible work arrangements may include reduction of workhours and/or workdays, rotation of workers and forced leave. Relevantly, as an alternative to termination of employees or closure of business, any or a combination of the following schemes may be adopted:
- Transfer of employees to another branch or outlet of the same employer;
- Assignment of employees to other function or position in the same or other branch or outlet of the same employer;
- Reduction of normal workdays per day or per week;
- Job rotation alternately providing workers with work within the workweek or within the month.
Work-from-home arrangements or telecommuting may likewise be explored. Under R.A. 11165 or the Telecommuting Act of 2019, employers may allow employees to work remotely using computer systems, subject to terms and conditions mutually agreed between them. The law states that employees who are under telecommuting scheme shall enjoy minimum labor standards and shall be accorded the same treatment and benefits as those given to employees working within the work premises.
The coming months will continue to be challenging for most businesses especially the MSMEs. Employers and employees experience the economic damage brought about by the pandemic. For its part, the government, through the DOLE, continue to explore options on how to alleviate the burden resulting from this worldwide catastrophe.
During this trying time, employers and employees must treat each other as partners. This is the only way to defeat the invisible enemy that is COVID-19. Once we realize this, we will certainly emerge victorious.