De Lima files bill mandating paid epidemic leave for private sector workers


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Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has filed a measure mandating paid leaves in the private sector during a state of calamity on account of an infectious disease, such as the COVID-19 virus.

De Lima filed Senate Bill (SB) No. 2307 providing for a five-day paid epidemic leave benefit to any private sector employee, regardless of employment status, who tests positive for the COVID-19 virus, or any emerging infectious disease. This also provides a maximum of 60 days of paid leave credits at 80 percent of the employee’s full pay for those who were placed on “floating status.”

“Workers already occupy a precarious and vulnerable position in Philippine society but their situation was further exacerbated by the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said De Lima, Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development.

“This vulnerable sector has long been consigned to the sidelines, forced to endure their struggles and to fend for themselves while the administration continues to allow the deluge of Chinese workers much to their detriment,” she added.

Marginalized as they already are, De Lima said the struggle of workers to survive “was made even worse by the continued nonchalance of the administration, if not downright neglect.”

According to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), the annual unemployment rate in 2020 rose to 10.3%, equivalent to 4.5 million unemployed Filipinos, while the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) fell by 9.5%, thereby proving the rising unemployment and decreasing economic output amid the global health crisis.

While the government “has rightly taken proactive steps to ensure the protection of capital investments in the country,” De Lima lamented that measures aimed at providing social safety nets for workers, which she called the backbone and lifeblood of Philippine economy, remain sorely lacking.

“This proposed measure is a social justice tool that upholds workers’ most basic human rights. If we can offer protections to industries, nothing should stand in the way of shielding employees from oppressive situations that epidemics of this magnitude have confined them in,” she said.

“In the absence of safeguards, these workers could find themselves in a situation where they may need to make a choice between health and income, which comes at a risk to both their health, the health of others and their economic well-being,” the Senator added.

Under SB No. 2307, the grant of paid epidemic leave shall be made available upon the declaration of a State of Calamity by the President or by the Local Sanggunian pursuant to Section 16 of Republic Act No. 10121, otherwise known as the “Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010.”

Last May, De Lima filed SB No. 2148 seeking to grant 10 working days of paid COVID-19 leave for employees who contracted the virus and who, because of the nature of their occupation, cannot avail of a telecommuting program or work from home scheme.

In January 2020, during the height of the Taal Volcano eruption, she also filed SB No. 1284 seeking to grant disaster service volunteers up to an aggregate of 15 days of paid leave from work within a year to allow them to perform their duties when called upon to render disaster response service. (30)

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