35-Hr Work Week To Boost Quality Of Life, Productivity Gains

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A lawmaker at the House of Representatives on Thursday said the proposed 35-hour alternative work arrangement would result in productivity and quality-of-life gains wherever adopted.

Albay Rep. Joey Salceda said the bill seeking to allow employees in the private sector to work for maximum of 35 hours a week as an alternative work arrangement would help workers develop a work-life balance.

Salceda noted that the global trend shows a reduction in weekly work hours across the decades, citing globally productive economies like Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany having work weeks with far fewer hours than the average work hours in the Philippines.

“This shows that it is possible to reduce working hours without weakening their economies,” Salceda said.

He said that increasing productivity does not merely rely on the number of hours put in, but also on the overall workers’ welfare aside from investments in emerging technologies.

“Length of stay in the workplace does not necessarily equate productivity, and we have known that now to be true in the age of work-from-home,” Salceda said. “Flexibility in workplaces accommodated the special needs of families, mothers, and older workers. Shorter worker hours saved on utility bills, and resulted in fewer cars on the road during rush hours.”

Citing a 2018 global survey, Salceda said the Philippines placed second to Greece among 145 countries in terms of “most stressful work environment.” The Philippines scored 58 percent, well above the global average of 35 percent.

To address anticipated changes in the labor market, and the increasing strain from commuting, Salceda said it is crucial that legislation has to be formulated to transition to a shorter work week without reduction in pay.

Salceda also cited a report of Autonomy (2019) showing that “shorter work weeks (and greater worker control over working time) can mean fewer sick absences, fewer in-work accidents and higher motivation on the job.”

He argued that the nature of future jobs is likely to change and displace current jobs that involve a lot of repetitive and codifiable tasks.

Government, he said, should prepare the landscape for work-sharing, and alternative work patterns such as telecommuting, and working less than the current eight hours-a-day norm.

The House of Representatives on Wednesday approved on second reading House Bill No. 309 seeking to reduce the weekly work schedule for employees in the private sector.

Under the bill, employers may implement a 35-hour work week scheme, provided that terms and conditions agreed upon are not less than the minimum labor standards set by law.

The employer shall ensure that employees working for 35 hours a week shall:
–receive rate of pay, including overtime, night shift differential, and other similar benefits;
–have the right to rest periods; and
–be provided by the employer with written information on the terms and conditions of the 35-hour working week scheme and the responsibilities of the employees

In cases of conflict between employers and employees under alternative working arrangement, the bill states that differences should be resolved under the grievance mechanism of the company.

However, for those without grievance machinery or whose mechanisms are inadequate, the grievance shall be referred to the Department of Labor and Employment. (PNA)

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