DOLE to study companies that may be exempted from giving 13th month pay

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 8) — As the month of December approaches, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) needs to study which companies can be exempted from giving 13th month pay to their employees, the Labor chief says.

“Sa batas, may exemption of payment pagka ‘yong business establishment is characterized as distressed,” said Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III.

[Translation: Under the law, business establishments can be exempted if they are characterized as distressed.]

In order to do this, DOLE will need to come up with an advisory defining companies considered “distressed” in order to be exempted from giving the mandatory benefit.

Bello said in a press briefing on Thursday that deferring the payment may be a “more acceptable” formula in addressing the issue. He added that it might work for business owners to give the benefit in the following months instead.

The Labor chief also said that they will study the exemption of micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) from giving the benefit. Meantime, they will require companies with a capitalization of ₱1 million above to give the 13th month pay.

Bello noted that he is taking a neutral stance between labor and management groups regarding the matter.

“Pakiusapan natin ‘yong mga businessmen na one-time lang naman ito. Kung kaya ninyo ibigay, ibigay. Kung hindi, baka pwede I-postpone,” he said.

[Translation: Let’s ask the businessmen that is only a one-time thing. If they can give, give. If not, maybe they can postpone it.]

Labor groups decry plan to defer 13th month pay this year

The Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (ALU-TUCP) asserted the law instituting 13th month pay among workers in the country saying it does not explicitly provide exemptions on which businesses can defer the benefit.

The labor group added that DOLE must hold dialogues with workers as the 13th month pay deferment may be a "risky and dangerous" move for all concerned stakeholders.

"The government must continue giving subsidy directly to the workers. Once the money is given to the businesses, there's no assurance that the funds from the government will help the workers," ALU-TUCP spokesperson Alan Tanjusay told CNN Philippines' Rico Hizon.

Kilusang Mayong Uno reminded the government that it is its responsibility to bail out businesses, especially MSMEs, in times of emergencies.

"Deferments and exemptions are not a good tune to sing amid this pandemic," said KMU chairperson Elmer Labog. "Why make the workers suffer by letting them be submerged in debts here and there?"

Defend Jobs PH appealed to the national government to find ways to provide 13th month pay to affected workers as the holiday season draws closer amid the pandemic.

"The gifts that our workers want for Christmas are jobs, assistance, and labor rights," Defend Jobs PH spokesperson Christian Lloyd Magsoy said in a video message.