Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz, yesterday commended the Employees Compensation Commission (ECC) for its commitment in developing and implementing existing policies to strengthen social protection for both private and public sector workers by ensuring access to adequate and quality social security services.
“For quite some time in the past, workers in the public and private sectors experienced discrepancies in the amount of benefits on social security and workmen’s compensation. This is because we have different administering agencies, different amounts of premium contributions, and different number of target clients relevant to the implementation of the Employees Compensation Program,” Baldoz said.
“And so, for us to meet the challenge of providing adequate and fair EC benefits for both public and private sector workers, the ECC during the last past years under the administration of President Benigno S. Aquino III adopted and implemented key reforms summarized in three key areas—equalization, enhancement, and expansion of benefits,” Baldoz explained.
Citing a report of ECC Executive Director Stella Banawis, the labor and employment chief bared that from 2011 to present, the ECC has reviewed, rationalized, and increased EC benefits to pursue equalization and enhancements of these benefits for private and public sector workers.
Before, sickness benefit, or total temporary disability (TTD) benefit, stood at a maximum rate of P90/day for public sector and P200/day for private sector workers. This has been prevailing since 1987 and 1996, respectively. Under President Aquino III administration, the rate was equalized to P200/day.
In 2013, the funeral benefit was also equalized at P10,000—from the previous rate of P3,000 for public sector workers, prevailing since 1987, and P10,000 for private sector workers, prevailing since 1997. By 2014, the funeral benefit has been increased to P20,000 for both public and private sector workers.
A new benefit, the carer’s allowance amounting to P575/month was also introduced for public sector workers to replicate the same benefit enjoyed by private sector workers since 1991.
The rate of reimbursement for doctor’s professional fees of public sector workers was also increased, according to Baldoz.
“From the previous P50-P60 rate, it was raised to P100-P150, the same rate as that received by private sector workers,” said Baldoz.
Two suspended benefits for retirees and workers separated from service—the EC Survivorship Pension and the Reimbursement of Medical Expenses—have also been reinstated, considering that the same benefits are continuously being availed of by workers in the private sector.
As to EC pension benefits, Banawis reported that an across-the-board increase for the private sector was approved in 2013 after the last across-the-board increase in 2000.
“Just recently, by virtue of ECC Board Resolution No. 15-06-30, Series of 2015, we adopted the Social Security System’s formula in computing pension resulting to a 20-25 percent increase in EC pension for the public sector,” she further said.
Rehabilitation services were also enhanced, making what was previously only available to those with permanent disabilities also available to those workers receiving EC temporary total disability, or sickness benefit.
“The ECC also increased the number of partner hospitals in the regions that provide rehabilitation services, as well as identified new rehabilitation services to cater to different categories of disabilities and impairments.
“This enhancement of these EC programs were made possible following the establishment of ECC regional extension units in the different DOLE Regional Offices,” Banawis said.
In addition, the ECC also increased the transportation and meal allowance of persons with work-related disabilities from P1,800 to P2,500 per month, by virtue of ECC Board Resolution No. 10-10-158 issued in September 2010.
The ECC, an attached agency of the DOLE, was established by virtue of Presidential Decree 626 on 1 January 1975 to initiate, rationalize, and coordinate the policies of the employees’ compensation program. It functions as both an appellate and policy-making body of the Employees’ Compensation Program.
The ECC Governing Board is chaired by the Secretary of Labor and Employment and its members include the heads of the Government Service Insurance System, Social Security System, and Department of Health (as ex-officio) and the Executive Director of the ECC Secretariat. The employees and employers sectors are also represented in the Governing Board.
“We have conducted actuarial studies to arrive at these EC benefits enhancements. The ECC Governing board, in the adoption of these reforms, took into consideration premium contributions by workers, which must not increase alongside increase in benefits,” Baldoz said, adding that with the remaining months of President Aquino’s administration, more benefit reforms are underway.
The anticipated reforms include the proposed 10 percent across-the-board increase in EC pension for the public sector; ECC coverage for self-employed and voluntary members of the SSS; adoption of a hospital billing scheme, instead of a reimbursement scheme, in availing EC medical benefits; equalization in reimbursement rate for doctors’ fees based on current average practice rates; and increase in the amount of carer’s allowance and funeral benefits.
Just recently, the ECC Governing Board recently increased EC sickness benefit for the private sector to a minimum of 110/day to a maximum of 480/day.
“The Employees’ Compensation Program provides not only income security but other critical services during a trying moment in an individual’s lifecycle,” Baldoz said, adding:
“As a key social protection program in the Philippines, it contributes to the over-all effort to prevent or alleviate poverty, vulnerability, and social exclusion towards improving the quality of life of workers and their families as part of our roadmap to achieving decent work and competitiveness.”
The ECC benefit reforms and development platform is consistent with the President Benigno S. Aquino administration’s 22-point labor and employment agenda to enhance social protection such as social security and workmen’s’ compensation to make it adequate as an income security program.