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Preserving safety through flexible work arrangements in the Philippines

The Bureau of Work Conditions (BWC) spearheaded a webinar on a single type or a combined flexible work arrangement for local employers to maintain their business operations and keeping the employment of their workers.

Queen Therese Espinas, Senior Labor and Employment Officer of the BWC – Policy and Program Development Division, presented various styles of flexible working arrangements that could be beneficial to employers and employees. The presentation covered key factors to be considered before implementing any work from home or blended work setup. This was essential as a majority of working-class citizens have been eagerly awaiting notice of changes or announcements coming from the authoritative body.

Issues of compensation, reporting requirements of the Department Of Labor and Employment (DOLE), and how to resolve disputes were touched on during the discussion. It was felt that these issues were bound to raise questions and speculations.

A second webinar from BWC was also conducted aimed at safety officers of private establishments. It is the responsibility of employers to promote work-life balance, especially in these trying times through proper scheduling of activities and a justifiable rotation of the workforce. Safety officers are key in this aspect.

The officers have to cater to expectations of a safe workplace and also ensure that the spaces are compliant with the Occupational Safety and Health Law that has a special focus on physical and mental resilience. Physical and mental resilience involves employers providing psychosocial support for their workforce especially of those showing mental and health concerns. The National Center for Mental Health Crisis offers assistance to any employees with such issues.

OIC-Assistant Secretary Regional Operations, Labor Standards and Special Concerns Cluster, Teresita Cucueco shared supplemental guidelines such as the use of face masks and face shields, provision of shuttle services, installation of isolation rooms and COVID-19 testing of workers. She also added that essential for the safety officers to share their knowledge and best practices with others.

With regard to face masks, the use of medical-grade face masks (N88 or N95) is highly encouraged while masks with vents are discouraged. Cloth masks are permitted to be used as long as there are filters underneath it (such as tissue paper or other similar material) and must be washed and disinfected daily. Hands must be disinfected after replacing the filters of cloth masks. Frequent touching and adjustments of face masks must be avoided unless necessary and disposable masks are to be disposed of properly.

Face shields shall cover the entire face and visor-type face shields are not allowed. Face shields and masks should always be worn when interacting with clients and colleagues, and are to be removed only if the nature of the job demands it or of any reasons affecting health.

Other protocols are to be met such as the one-meter social distancing and many more to uphold in the commitment for a CoVID-free work environment.

Asec. Cucueco also added that the coordination of employers with the Local Government Units (LGUs), the DOH, and DOLE as inspectors of businesses can be expected to be uncompromising. In addition to the new normal in work, in compliance with the government’s directive as preventive measures, all walk-in clients are highly discouraged. All pertinent transactions must be done via DOLE hotline, e-mail, BWC website or phone calls.

Even after the lifting of the quarantine, observance of the said mandate must be observed at all times. The BWC envisions well-guided employers and workers committed to a safe, healthful, and productive work environment.

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