De Lima seeks 10-day paid leave for COVID-infected employees

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 2) — Senator Leila de Lima has filed a bill granting a paid pandemic leave for COVID-positive workers to allow them to recover and undergo mandatory isolation without worrying over the loss of income.

In Senate Bill No. 2148, De Lima said a 10-day COVID-19 leave per year shall apply to all infected qualified employees in both the public and private sectors. It defines a qualified employee as someone “required to report to the office, physically or virtually, for work on a regular basis.”

According to the senator, virus-hit workers should still be afforded their full daily pay to protect their welfare as well as ensure occupational health and safety.

“Filipinos valiantly choose to work, to provide for their families and to save the economy, despite the danger this pandemic poses,” De Lima said.

“It is the very duty of the State to ensure their safety and promote their welfare by alleviating their piling problems through allowing them to have paid pandemic leaves particularly when they themselves have been infected by the virus,” she added.

Should the measure be enacted into law, the pandemic leave would be in addition to the existing paid sick days and other benefits currently enjoyed by an employee. It should be availed immediately after the worker tests positive and in “a continuous and uninterrupted manner," the bill stated.

The Social Security System and the Government Service Insurance System will be mandated, as applicable, to reimburse the employer for the paid days off.

An employer who refuses to grant the said leave, meanwhile, will be penalized with a fine of not less than ₱20,000 but not more than ₱200,000.

A similar measure was filed in October last year in the House of Representatives. The version in the lower chamber has wider coverage, as it seeks a 14-day paid leave for confirmed, probable, and suspect COVID-19 cases, as well as those tagged as a close contact or is an immediate family member of an infected patient.

House Bill 7909 also pushes for up to 60 days of leave at 80% of daily full pay for an employee who has been rendered involuntarily out of work or placed under floating status due to the impact of the pandemic on the company, but who technically remains employed.

The bill already hurdled the House Committee on Labor and Employment last year but is still pending approval by the Committee on Appropriations.