On 10 January this year, the DOLE National Capital Region gave its go signal to the management and workers of the Manila Branch of AEB, Inc., an information technology company, to implement a compressed work week, as requested by its 41-strong workforce to save on transportation money.
That means instead of working from 8:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. Monday to Saturday, company employees would, starting 1 February, report only from Monday to Friday, albeit increasing the working hours by one and half-hours, or 47.5 hours per week without the corresponding overtime premium.
With the approval of the DOLE, another company, Visprint, Inc., a medium-sized offset printing and publishing company in Pasay City, had also started on 2 January a similar scheme, with the voluntary nod of its 69 employees, 23 of whom are female.
“We are doing a compressed work week to cut cost in utility consumption, but more importantly, to provide our employees with additional rest day and more time to spend with their families,” said Nida Ramirez, Visprint, Inc. president.
Is this allowed?
The answer is yes, according to Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz, who yesterday said the arrangement is in order under DOLE Advisory No. 4, Series of 2010, or the “Guidelines on the Implementation of Flexible Work Arrangements and the Exemption from the Nightwork Prohibition for Women Employees in the Business Process Outsourcing Industry.”
“The concept of flexible work arrangement refer to alternative arrangements or schedules other than the traditional or standard work hours, work days, and work week,” said Baldoz.
But Baldoz hastened to add that the effectivity and implementation of any flexible work arrangement shall be based on a voluntary agreement between the employer and the employee.
“Also, it shall in no case result to the diminution of existing employee benefits,” Baldoz emphasized, adding:
“The parties to the arrangement shall be primarily responsible for its administration and differences in interpretation shall be treated as grievances under the applicable grievance mechanism of the company.”
She said that if there is no grievance mechanism, or if this mechanism is inadequate, the grievance shall be referred for appropriate conciliation to the DOLE regional office which has jurisdiction over the workplace.
Under the DOLE Advisory, there are three flexible arrangements that companies and their employees may consider. These are the following:
(1) Compressed work week, where the normal work week is reduced to less than six (6) days, but the total number of work hours of 48 hours per week shall remain. In this arrangement, the normal work day is extended to more than eight (8) hours, but should not exceed 12 hours, without corresponding overtime premium.
(2) Gliding, or flexi-time schedule, where the employees are required to complete the core work hours, but are free to determine their arrival and departure time.
(3) Flexi-holidays schedule, where the employees agree to avail the holidays at some other days, provided there is no diminution of existing benefits as a result of such arrangement.
The idea of a compressed work week has been floated recently by some sectors, arguing that it will minimize vehicular traffic in the metropolis, among other cited benefits.
But while there is no definitive proof that a compressed work week will de-clog city streets, Baldoz said flexible work arrangements are designed to improve business competitiveness and productivity.
“These arrangements can give employers and employees flexibility in fixing hours of work compatible with business requirements and the employees’ need for balanced work-life,” she explained.
The labor and employment chief further said that rapid technological innovations and the continuing transformation of work processes and work places brought about by globalization moved the DOLE to issue the guidelines.
Since then, many companies, in consultation and in agreement with their employees, have voluntarily adopted flexible work arrangements, such as the compressed work week.
In Cavite, for example, almost all electronics manufacturing companies have been implementing compressed work week, according to DOLE Regional Office No. 4-A Director Zenaida Angara-Campita.
“Nakakabawas ‘yan sa traffic kasi sa halip na three shifts, two shifts na lang ang trabaho sa isang araw,” according to one company owner.
Baldoz stated that flexible work arrangements are feasible as long as workers and employers agree.
“Based on the DOLE experience during the global financial crisis when the compressed work week was adopted by some companies as one of the measures to mitigate the effects of the crisis, it produced positive results, one of which is savings on utilities, such as electric, water, and telephone bills on the part of the companies, and savings on transportation costs on the part of the workers.
She said any flexible work arrangement should also consider the flexibilities of today’s work places.
“If we have to adopt a compressed work week, for example, it doesn’t necessarily mean involving the whole operation of a company. It could only be one or two units, or involve those types of work that can be done even without the need for the physical presence of the worker, or work that can be done through the Internet, which modern technology now allows,” she explained.