MANILA— Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III on Saturday clarified that it was not the Department of Labor and Employment's intent to call for a deferment of employees’ 13th month pay come Christmas time as businesses continued to struggle amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
This, as labor groups slammed the proposal to allow distressed small and medium enterprises (SME) in the Philippines to defer the bonus pay of their employees due to the health crisis that has affected thousands of businesses.
“It is very clear under the law that the 13th month pay has to be paid on or before Dec. 25. That is the law. There is no way you can delay or defer the payment of 13 month pay,” Bello said.
“I was misunderstood when I mentioned especially in the implementing rules and regulations, there is a provision which says that companies in distress are exempted from paying 13th month pay,” he added.
In a virtual briefing Thursday, Bello said they were mulling a proposal for distressed SMEs to be exempt or be allowed to defer the payment of 13th month pay to their workers.
Because of this, some 2 million workers may not receive their 13th month pay this year, according to the Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP).
But Bello said the suspension of the bonus cannot be done legally unless it is a private agreement between employer and employee. He also said the payment of the bonus is non-negotiable unless a company is considered in distress.
“If there is any intention to postpone or delay the payment, that cannot be done legally unless it is a private transaction or agreement between the employer and employee,” he said.
Since the coronavirus upended lives and livelihoods, some 13,127 companies had laid off workers or permanently closed while 116,471 others had temporarily closed or observed flexible working arrangements, data from DOLE showed.