Bill for 35-hour workweek in private and public sectors filed in Congress

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 19 2022 03:10 PM

MANILA - A lawmaker on Friday sought to institutionalize a 35-hour workweek as an alternative working arrangement, citing the need for better productivity and a happier workforce. 

House Ways and Means Committee Chair, Albay 2nd District Rep. Joey Salceda filed House Bill 656 to institutionalize this scheme in the private sector, and House Bill 657 to institutionalize the same scheme in the public sector.

“This is in line with the policy of the State to promote not only higher levels of productivity but also the welfare of workers. With this bill this representation envisions a more robust economy, and happier workers in healthier workplaces.” Salceda said in his explanatory notes.

Under HB 656, an employer in the private sector may, upon request of its employees or on a voluntary basis, implement a 35-hour working week arrangement for its employees upon terms and conditions mutually agreed upon, including arrangements for flexible working time. 

However, such terms and conditions shall not be less than the minimum labor standards set by law.

HB 656 also states that in all cases, the employer shall ensure that the employees under a 35-hour working week scheme shall receive a rate of pay, including overtime, night shift differential and other similar monetary benefits, not lower than those provided in applicable laws, and collective bargaining agreements.

They will be afforded the right to rest periods as provided for by law and will have equivalent workload and the same performance standards as those of comparable employees in the company.

Under the bill, the employer shall provide written information on the terms and conditions of the 35-hour working week scheme adopted, and the corresponding responsibilities of the employees under such arrangement.

HB 656 also adds that the parties to a 35-hour working week arrangement shall be primarily responsible for its administration. 

“In cases of conflict during implementation of the scheme, the differences shall be resolved under the grievance mechanism of the company. For companies without grievance machineries or whose mechanisms are inadequate, the grievance shall be referred to the Department of Labor and Employment for resolution," the bill states.

Meanwhile, House Bill 657 states that the 35-hour work week can also be implemented in any government office, department, agency or enterprise may, upon request of its employees or on a voluntary basis.

As in HB 656, terms and conditions must be mutually agreed upon by the employer and the employee, including flexible working time. 

In cases where the exigencies of service required, covered employees shall render services for more than 35 hours per working week.

The bill likewise states that the parties to a 35-hour working week arrangement shall be primarily responsible for its administration. 

Grievances with the implementation and administration will be resolved under the grievance mechanism of the concerned government entity. In cases with no grievance machinery, it shall be referred to the Civil Service Commission for resolution, the bill stated. 

Salceda said his proposals to institute a 35-hour working week for employees in the government as an alternative work arrangement. 

Salceda also noted that Anna Coote of the New Economics Foundation in Australia, among other academics, suggests that a shorter, more flexible working week actually increases productivity and strengthens the economy. 

“Citing various reports, she concludes that part-time workers are physically and mentally healthier, and are thus more productive. Observations like these have enjoined other parts of the world to make policy changes that would test whether a reduction in the number of weekly work hours can boost employee productivity," Salceda said. 

Apart from increased productivity, employers and employees with shorter work weeks also found the set up accommodates the special needs of families, mothers, and older workers, Salceda added. 

Shorter work hours also save on utility bills, resulted in fewer cars on the road during rush hours, and help employees become healthier. 

"In a study conducted by the Swedish government, workers in stressful environments such as nurses who were working six hours a day were more active and less sick than those working eight-hour days, Salceda said.