President Rodrigo Duterte has signed a law which formalizes the option for employees to work from home or work remotely outside the workplace. Republic Act No. 11165 or the Telecommuting Act declares telecommuting as an alternative work arrangement which employers may implement upon agreement with their employees. Essentially, the new law sets out the rights and duties of the employers and employees when a telecommuting program is in place. It further provides for the resolution of grievances arising from the telecommuting program.

The new law gives employers the option to offer to their employees a telecommuting program, subject to terms and conditions mutually agreed upon between them. For this purpose, the terms and conditions of the telecommuting program shall not be less than the minimum labor standards set by law and the telecommuting employees shall be accorded the same treatment as those of comparable employees working at the work premises, including matters with respect to salary, premium payments, and other monetary benefits, rest periods and holidays, workload and performance standards, access to training and career opportunities, as well as collective rights granted to workers.

Further, under the new law, the telecommuting employees shall not be isolated from the working community in the work premises but shall be given an opportunity to regularly meet with their colleagues.

In addition, the employers are enjoined to take appropriate measures to ensure the protection of data which are used and processed by the telecommuting employees and shall inform said employees of all relevant laws and company rules on data protection.

The new law essentially adds a new alternative work arrangement which may be implemented in the workplace. Similar to other alternative or flexible work arrangements previously identified by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) such as the compressed workweek scheme and flexi-holidays, the telecommuting program under the new law is made subject to the agreement of the employer and the covered employees.

While the law does not specify which industries are covered by the Telecommuting Act, the DOLE is tasked to identify such industries in the implementing rules which it is mandated to issue.

As all employers, including employing contractors and subcontractors, may be affected by the new law, all said responsible entities should be concerned in ensuring compliance with the new law and the general labor laws when implementing a telecommuting program in the workplace. As implementing rules have yet to be issued by the DOLE, employers should monitor developments and undertake measures to likewise comply with the same.