MANILA – A new bill prohibiting discrimination against employees based on age can help overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) when they come home, according to an expert on labor law.
When OFWs come back to the Philippines after working abroad, they may have difficulty finding employment here, so Republic Act 10911, the Anti-Age Discrimination in Employment Act, can help them rebuild a life here with their families.
"They may no longer be employable by Philippine standards, because employers like to set age standards for their job openings and prefer young people," said labor lawyer Apollo XCS Sangalang in an interview with ABS-CBN News. "This law actually is good for returning OFWs."
Meanwhile, the Anti-Age Discrimination law is also a good morale booster for workers, a labor advocate said.
"Ang problema kasi, ads pa lang may discrimination na, may nakalagay na age bracket," said Wilson Fortaleza, spokesperson of labor group Partido ng Manggagawa, over the phone. With the new law, jobseekers will be motivated to look for jobs because they will be able to sell their skills without fear of being rejected due to age.
"Dapat matagal na [iyang batas na iyan], kasi may principle ng equal opportunity for all," he said.
According to the Anti-Age Discrimination in Employment Act, employers should not:
a) Print job notices with preferences or limitations based on age;
b) Require the declaration of age or birthdate during the application process;
c) Decline any employment application based on age;
d) Discriminate against an individual in terms of compensation or privileges on account of age;
e) Deny promotion or training opportunities based on age;
f) Forcibly lay-off an employee because of age;
g) Impose early retirement on the basis of age; and
h) Reduce the wage rate of any employee just to be able to comply with the law.
Labor contractors are also not allowed to refuse to refer for employment because of age, and labor groups are likewise not supposed to deny membership because of age.
Publishers are also covered by the law—they are not allowed to print or put out any notice considered discriminatory.
However, there are exceptions to the rule. Employers will not be sanctioned if they set an age limit if:
a) Age is a bona fide occupational qualification reasonably necessary in the normal operation of the particular business, or where the differentiation is based on reasonable factors, other than age;
b) The intent is to observe the terms of a bona fide seniority system that is not intended to evade the purpose of this act;
c) The intent is to observe the terms of a bona fide employee retirement or a voluntary early retirement plan consistent with the purpose of this act, provided that such retirement or voluntary retirement plans are an accordance with the Labor Code, as amended, and other related laws; and
d) The action is duly certified by the Secretary of Labor and Employment in accordance with the purpose of this act.
When asked if they would accept any reason for an employer to be exempted from the rule, Fortaleza said no, as it would still be against the principle of equal opportunity for all.
He said it is a jobseeker's responsibility to judge if they are fit for a job. For example, if a job is physically taxing such as for construction, a person should not apply if they do not feel that they are strong enough to take on such duties.
While saying that the exemptions do not necessarily water down the law, as the public has to wait for the Implementing Rules and Guidelines to be finished before passing judgment, Sangalang conceded that there can be certain jobs that would need an age limit.
"Like when you are in fashion," he said. "If you are marketing to a certain age segment, then it is but natural that you would hire people in that age segment for purposes of marketing or brand building."
It is possible for employers to be pickier with applicants now that the law bars one of the most common requirements that they put in their ads. While Fortaleza decries any instance of listing of an age preference, Sangalang said that this can actually be a good thing.
If employers set strict guidelines for employment, or give difficult exams for employees, it will be more likely that applicants will be better able to sell their qualifications and skills, and get the job based on merit, whatever their age.
"[Right now], there is already a prejudice, a preconceived notion that if you are in this age bracket, you are not qualified. So now, employers would come up with better hiring methods than just arbitrary fixing an age limit or bracket for hiring," he said.
While lawmakers have yet to set implementing rules for the law, people already have some idea on how to implement it, Sangalang added, because prior to the Anti-Age Discrimination law, they had to learn to respect the Magna Carta for the Disabled.
More anti-discrimination laws
Fortaleza hopes that other measures would also be passed to deter employers from discrimination based on other factors such as religion.
"Sigurado, maraming employers na nagdi-discriminate based on religion," he said, particularly the Islamic faith. Muslims, he said, do not deserve to be labeled negatively based merely on their faith.
Lawyer Sangalang also said that aside from religion, it can be useful to have laws addressing discrimination based on race or ethnicity, and sexual orientation.
"We are a multicultural country…I think there are already bills in congress, but these are not yet approved," he said.