Big firms must provide shuttle services for workers – DOLE, DTI

Big companies or those with total assets of above 100 million pesos located inside special economic zones and other areas under the jurisdiction of investment promotion agencies are required to provide shuttle services for their employees.

This was clarified by Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III and Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez in an advisory issued over the weekend.

The advisory also provides requirements that must be followed by private establishments for the setting up of isolation areas and implementation of disinfection procedures as provided for in the DTI-DOLE Joint Memorandum Circular (JMC) No. 2020-4-A, series of 2020.

The provision of shuttle services, per DOLE-DTI advisory, shall be consistent with Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) Resolution No. 69 dated 07 September 2020.

The IATF guideline states that “large-sized private establishments with total assets above Php100,000,000.00 located inside special economic zones and other areas under the jurisdiction of Investment Promotion Agencies are required to provide shuttle services for their employees.”

“Assets shall refer to total assets, inclusive of those arising from loans but exclusive of the land on which the particular business entity’s office, plant, and equipment are situated. (Section 3, Republic Act 9501 or the Magna Carta for MSMEs),” the advisory said.

“In case the private establishments are unable to financially sustain the provision of shuttle services, they may adopt alternative arrangements, such as cost-sharing, partial vouchers for use of Transport Network Vehicle Services, and other alternative arrangements to facilitate the transportation needs of their employees,” Secretary Bello said.

The joint advisory also stipulates that “employers may contract the services of Public Utility Vehicles (PUV) to subsidize public transport operations.”

DOLE and DTI also clarified that employees classified as Most-at-Risk Population (MARP) and those who are at least 18 years old but below 21 years may be allowed to report to work for eight hours, provided that they undergo a fit-to-work examination and secure a medical certificate from any competent authority.

An occupational health physician or government physician with occupational health training can examine and certify the employee’s fitness to work for regular hours under Rule 1967 of the Occupational Safety and Health Standards.

The advisory however further clarified that employers are highly encouraged to allow the said employees to be in a work from home arrangement, when applicable.

Moreover, the requirement of designating an isolation area of one room for every 200 employees shall be based on the average number of employees reporting to work per shift.

“The isolation rooms may be outside the establishments, provided that they are within the control of the employer, i.e. the facility is readily available when necessary, and provided further, that a temporary holding facility for employees and visitors with symptoms, or following further assessment required after responding to the health declaration form, shall be set up within the immediate vicinity of the workplace and/or building,” the DOLE-DTI advisory added. Employers are also encouraged, under Section VI (C) of the JMC, to establish their company policies on the temporary closure of the workplace and its disinfection.

A more extensive contact tracing practices including procedures for a granular lockdown of the building/facility (i.e. closure of a section/floor/unit of the building/facility) for disinfection, to ensure continuity of operations, must also be observed.

The granular lockdown of the building/facility for disinfection may be allowed, provided that the building or workplace has a company policy and/or Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) program maintaining the safety of the unaffected employees.

A shorter lockdown period of less than 24 hours for disinfection (disinfection time of three to four hours) is allowed, provided that the safety of employees is ascertained and a certificate of return to work from the specialists/cleaners/disinfecting agents is secured.

To provide a suitable work environment for employees, clients, and visitors, the air conditioning temperature in establishments shall be set or regulated according to the nature of their operations.

Malls and shopping centers may lower the air conditioning temperature up to 24 degrees centigrade.