Senator files bill to protect employees' rest hours amid new normal setup

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 19) — A senator has filed a bill seeking to prohibit employers from requiring their employees to work or attend work-related activities during rest hours.

Sen. Francis Tolentino filed Senate Bill No. 2475, or the proposed Workers’ Rest Law, citing the “thinned” line between work and personal space and time as work-from-home and telecommuting arrangements have become mainstream due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The proposed bill forbids employers, managers, supervisors or any of their agents to require employees to work or attend work-related activities like seminars or team-building efforts during rest hours — unless the employee freely provides written consent to do so.

This SB 2475 defines rest hours as any period outside an employee's working time. It covers employees “in all establishments and undertakings whether for profit or not” but not field personnel, domestic helpers, personal service workers, and those “paid by results.”

It also says that employees who do not respond to work-related communications during rest hours may not be penalized. However, they can be contacted for purposes of notifying them the “necessity of rendering emergency or urgent work” as provided by Articles 89 and 92 of the Labor Code.

Article 89 refers to emergency overtime work while Article 92 pertains to work on a rest day — which employers can require in certain cases such as actual emergencies or when labor is necessary to prevent loss or damage to perishable goods.

Penalties are to be slapped on violators. The proposed law slaps a penalty of ₱1,000 per hour of work rendered in violation of it, or a fraction thereof, though it also requires “substantial evidence” to prove the offense committed and number of hours logged in.

Those committing acts prohibited under the bill and resorting to violence, threats or intimidation must be punished for grave coercion under the Revised Penal Code, the bill added.

SB 2475 likewise imposes a fine of at least ₱100,000 and jail time between one to six months for violators found to have limited, segregated, or classified employees in a way that could discriminate them or diminish their work opportunities.

“If the offense is committed by a corporation, trust, firm, partnership, association, or any other entity, the penalty shall be imposed upon the guilty officer or officers of such corporation, trust, firm, partnership, association, or entity,” read the bill.