Employers back heat breaks but refuse mandatory legislation

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Businesses have expressed agreement with proposals to grant employees special or unscheduled work breaks in extremely hot weather but say that the implementation of these “heat breaks” should not be mandatory.

Sergio R. Ortiz-Luis Jr., president of the Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP), in an interview with DZBB on April 9 said: “Wala naman kaming problema dun sa sina-suggest na mga precautions… Ang mga employers ngayon ang trato nila sa mga workers ay hindi lang partner kundi best assets na kailangang pangalagaan mo.”

(“We have no problem with the suggested precautions. Employers now treat their workers not just as their partners but as best assets that need to be protected.”)

However, he said the business sector does not subscribe to suggestions to make heat breaks mandatory, adding that this should be left to the discretion of the employers. “Pakiusap lang namin sa mga nagsasabing gawing mandatory, walang formula na puedeng fits all kasi iba-iba ang situasyon ng mga kompanya.”

(“To those saying it should be mandatory, we have to say there is no formula that fits all since each company faces a different situation.”)

Ortiz-Luis pointed out that many companies have air-conditioned offices and large and spacious factories with electric fans and humidifiers, and these establishments will be needlessly affected if heat breaks are mandated.

He explained that businesses’ main concern is that there are already too many rules to follow and the imposition of policies that fit all “can create a lot of work problems.”

Companies have their own way of doing things, and what’s important is for them to ensure continuous hydration, free water for everybody, and safety measures in place, he further said.

The executive also noted that only around 10% to 16% of people have employers, while the rest don’t, and it’s the 84% to 90%, including fishermen, market vendors and other informal workers, that need to be taken care of.

“Dapat ang PAGASA, ang PhilHealth, ang Department of Health tuluy-tuloy ang pag-alalay,” he added.

(The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration, Philippine Health Insurance Corporation, and Department of Health should provide continued guidance.)

Ortiz-Luis said it is also not clear what heat breaks will entail in terms of how long they are supposed to last and whether they are paid or not. He said that if the mandatory breaks are to be paid, it could have a discouraging effect on those firms that don’t have to implement them.

“Pabayaang diskartehan ng mga [employers], hindi yung… gagawa ng fits all na regulasyon. Makakasama pa yan,” he said.

(“Let employers do it their way. Let’s not make regulations that fit all. It could be harmful.”)

Last year, the Department of Labor and Employment issued Labor Advisory No. 8, which provides guidelines for addressing periods of intense heat. These include rest breaks, temperature-appropriate uniforms and personal protective equipment, and free drinking water for employees.

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III has earlier proposed additional rest periods for workers during times of scorching heat as well as the enforcement of occupational health and safety protocols.

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