Government agencies review rules on flexible work

DESPITE the implementation of guidelines for flexible work arrangement (FWA) for public sector workers last week, several government offices are still undecided on whether to adopt the measure or not.

At least three government offices—the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the Commission on Elections—told BusinessMirror they are still studying the possible adoption of the scheme.

Civil Service Commissions (CSC) Memorandum Circular (MC) No. 2022-6, which institutionalized the government guidelines for FWA finally became effective on June 15, 2022.

It allowed government offices to make use of “flexi place” wherein workers can render service while they are outside of office; compressed work week wherein the 40-hour work week can be compressed into four days or less instead of five; skeleton workforce wherein a minimum number of workers must report for office; workshifting wherein employees will be allowed work in batches to ensure an office operate 24/7; “flexi time” wherein a worker can report anytime between 7 am and 7 pm as long as they complete the 40-hour work-week; and weekend work.

Frontline workers

Interior Undersecretary Jonathan E. Malaya disclosed they are currently looking at the possible impact of the measure on their operations since they are a “frontline agency.”

“The DILG Personnel Division is drafting our proposed guidelines to conform with the CSC MC, which we will then subject it to consultation with the Employees Union before submission to the SILG (Secretary of Interior and Local Government),” Malaya said.

Comelec acting spokesperson John Rex C. Laudiangco said the matter has yet to be taken up by the Comelec en banc.

The president of the Comelec Employees’ Union (Comelec-EU),  Mark Christopher “Mac” Ramirez said while they welcome the FWA option, it may not be applicable to them amid their preparations for the next Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections (BSKE).

“We will be starting voter registration by next month, and preparations for December 5, 2022 are already under way. This means we will be in our offices daily and would have to render overtime services even on holidays and weekends,” Ramirez said in a SMS.

For her part, Social welfare spokesperson Irene B. Dumlao said she will discuss the MC with their Human Resources Management and Development Services.

Pending list

As of Tuesday, CSC Commissioner Aileen A. Lizada said they are still waiting for their regional offices to submit the list of government offices, which will be implementing FWAs.

Under MC 2022-6, government offices must submit their internal guidelines to the CSC regional offices for record purposes.

CSC earlier said it will be up to the government offices to determine if they will adopt the FWAs in any of their departments.

“We will see which agencies are adopting work arrangements. We will also see which type they will use if they decide to adopt it,” Lizada said.

She said they expect to come out with an initial consolidated list of agencies with flexible work arrangement by next month.

“It takes time for them to craft [the internal guidelines]. We will give them a month. Hopefully, they will be able to submit by then. But right now, there are many offices, which are already seeking assistance from our regional offices [for their guidelines],” Lizada said.

Labor reaction

Federation of Free Workers (FFW) President Sonny Matula supports the mainstreaming of FWA in the public sector, seeing it as beneficial to employees.

“In principle, FFW favors said arrangements as long as such should not disrupt the continuous delivery of government usual services from 8 am to 5 pm,” Matula said in SMS.

The policy is also backed by Public Services Labor Independent Confederation (PSLINK) general secretary Annie Enriquez-Geron, but the labor leader expressed concern over the execution of flexible work guidelines, especially since she said there was no stakeholder consultation done for its creation.

“There was no consultation with public sector unions on this despite our letters since 2020 for a dialogue [with CSC] to discuss and determine which of the existing jobs can be done at home and the framework within which it should be implemented,” Geron said.

She said they hope CSC will issue a clarification on what work performance assessment tools will be used in implementing the flexible work arrangement.

Asked about the concerns of PSLINK, Lizada said the concerned government agencies are already engaging with their regional offices to thresh out the said details.

Private sector implementation

CSC decided to institutionalize FWA, which were implemented by many government agencies since the onset of the Covid-19 crisis in early 2020, to provide more options for public employees to achieve work-life balance and minimize risk from infections.

The scheme is already widely implemented in the private sector especially during the pandemic.

Data from the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) showed from January to May this year, 193,557 workers were affected by FWAs implemented by 3,681 establishments.

The most commonly implemented FWAs for private firms are reduction of workdays, compressed work week and telecommuting work arrangement.

“In terms of establishment size, the majority of the establishments which adopted flexible work arrangements were small enterprises [45 percent or 1,554],” DOLE said in its latest displacement report.

Some government officials are pushing for the mass implementation of flexible work arrangements to help employees cope with rising transportation costs due to higher fuel prices. This is compounded by the severe shortage in space in public transport, as many operators and drivers have reduced operations, unable to shoulder the added burden of spiking fuel prices amid authorities’ failure to adjust fares.