Cushioning the impact of Covid-19

Credit to Author: Anna Patricia M. Derecho| Date: Thu, 26 Mar 2020 16:16:53 +0000

In light of the nation’s growing concern for the coronavirus pandemic, President Rodrigo Duterte placed the National Capital Region on a community quarantine on March 12, 2020.

Seeing that the community quarantine would not be sufficient to address the threat of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19), Duterte, on March 16, issued an order that placed the entire Luzon area on enhanced community quarantine status.

BATTLE WITH COVID-19 A Quezon City health worker on Friday disinfects houses at Barangay Ramon Magsaysay in Bago Bantay on Friday as part of the local government’s efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19). Mayor Josefina Belmonte said the city would be placed under ‘community quarantine’ as six individuals tested positive for the virus. PHOTO BY RUY L. MARTINEZ

This issuance also ordered the suspension of all mass public transportation and the closure of all private establishments, save for some that provide essential services or sell basic goods. Some sectors, instead of totally closing, opted to implement flexible working arrangements. But, in either case, millions of workers lost or may have lost their source of income.

To protect the workers in the private sector and to help them in this time of grave need, the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE), through Department Order 209 dated March 17, 2020, issued the guidelines on the implementation of the Covid-19 Adjustment Measures Program (CAMP).

Benefits 

Under CAMP, qualified affected workers are entitled to the following benefits:

– Financial Assistance — A one-time lump sum amount of P5,000 shall be given to all affected workers, the same being non-conditional and regardless of their employment status (i.e., regular, probationary and contractual) and rank (i.e., rank and file, supervisory and managerial).

Relative to DoLE Labor Advisory 11, Series of 2020, which states that the leaves of absence of workers during the quarantine period are to be charged against their leave credits, the financial assistance may be used to cover remaining unpaid leaves of affected workers.

– Employment Facilitation — affected workers can also be provided access to job opportunities through job matching, referral, placement of workers either local or overseas, employment coaching and labor market information.

CAMP benefits are available to all affected workers in qualified private establishments nationwide. Affected workers are those whose work hours or wages are reduced due to the employer’s implementation of flexible working arrangements(e.g. reduction of workhours, workdays, rotation of workers and forced leave) and those whose employment was suspended by reason of the suspension of operations or temporary closure of the employer’s business establishment.

Employees who are on a work-from-home arrangement, or those employees who are or who will continuously receive salaries from their employers are not qualified under the program.

DoLE clarified that foreign workers and top management officials (i.e., chief executive officer, chief operating officer, executive director, etc.)are not covered by the program.

However, Jobstart beneficiaries who are in the internship phase are qualified and are thus entitled to financial assistance.

Qualified employers are establishments that have implemented flexible working arrangements or temporary closure or suspension of operations because of the Covid-19 outbreak. Under CAMP, it is also the obligation of the qualified employers to apply for the CAMP benefits on behalf of their affected workers.

Requirements that should be submitted are Revised Establishment Report on the Covid-19 pursuant to Labor Advisory 12 series of 2020 and company payroll for the month of February or earlier.

These requirements must be submitted online (the e-mail addresses of the DoLE Regional Offices are contained in Annex B of Labor Advisory 12 Series of 2020 for the directory of e-mail addresses), or at the DoLE Provincial and/or Field Offices.

The DoLE shall evaluate such application within three days. Thereafter, the applicant may receive either a Notice of Approval or a Notice of Denial, via electronic mail.

The DoLE may deny an application on the following grounds: ineligibility of the applicant; misrepresentation of facts in the application, or submission of falsified or tampered documents.

Implementation

Upon approval of the application, the concerned DoLE Regional Office shall issue the financial support directly to the worker’s payroll account via bank transfer at the soonest possible time upon receipt of the complete documentary requirements.

For cash payroll, financial support shall be received through money remittance.
Workers who have received the financial support are considered to have completed the CAMP, and a Notice of Completion shall be issued to the affected employers via electronic mail within three working days.

Beneficiaries shall also be referred by the concerned DoLE Regional Office to the nearest Public Employment Services Offices for the provision of a full-cycle employment facilitation.

Beneficiaries who intend to find subsequent local and overseas employment shall be referred to appropriate employers with job vacancies matching their qualifications. Simultaneously, said beneficiaries will also be provided with employment coaching and
relevant labor market information.

Effectivity of CAMP

CAMP took effect on March 21, 2020. It shall also cover workers affected by the Covid-19 pandemic as early as January 2020 until the lifting of the stringent social distancing measures on April 14, 2020, unless otherwise extended by the Inter Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases.

Although D oLE’s quick response to the crisis and concern for the plight of workers in the private sector are truly commendable, there are still much to be desired from CAMP.

For one, the deadline for submission is unclear as the advisory only states that the requirements must be submitted “as soon as possible.”

Large companies are also uncertain if they qualify under the program, considering that the Department Order encourages them to pay for their employees’ salary.

It is likewise unclear as to how the employers would know if the application they filed on behalf of their employees was approved or denied; if the denial would be per employer, or employee; and if there would be any remedy should an application be denied.

It is admirable that DoLE ensures that the assistance would be given directly to the employees. This, however, may not only be difficult to implement, but also inconvenient logistics-wise considering the number of employees who might apply and qualify for the financial assistance, especially for those under cash payroll. DoLE might reconsider coursing the financial assistance through the employers, as this would be more convenient for DoLE and the employees.

While it is understandable that the financial assistance is afforded only to employees whose salaries were reduced by reason of the flexible work arrangements adopted by their employers, DoLE may also consider extending assistance to those who continued to render service despite the threat of Covid-19. Perhaps the DoLE could consider such assistance as similar to the hazard pay extended by the President to government workers who continued to physically report for work for the duration of the lockdown through Administrative Order 26.

It is curious how DoLE would implement such a large-scale program expeditiously and conveniently, while maintaining a strict evaluation of the validity of the applications of the employers.

We can expect DoLE to address these concerns by issuing a more specific and streamlined guidelines for this program.

(The author is a junior associate at Gargantiel Ilagan & Atanante law firm, the legal counsel of The Manila Times and its affiliates.

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 This article is for general information purposes only and should not be considered as professional advice to a specific issue or entity. The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of Gargantiel Ilagan & Atanante law firm. For questions and clarifications about the article, you may reach the author at apmderecho@gialawfirm.com.

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