Government agencies review flexible working rules

DESPITE the implementation of Flexible Working Arrangements (FWA) guidelines for public sector workers last week, several government offices are still undecided whether or not to adopt the measure.

At least three government offices – the Department of Home and Local Government (DILG), the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the Electoral Commission – told BusinessMirror they are still considering adoption possible program.

Public Service Commissions (CSC) Memorandum Circular (MC) No. 2022-6, which institutionalized government guidelines for the FWA, finally came into effect on June 15, 2022.

It has enabled government offices to use “flexible locations” where workers can render service while out of the office; the compressed work week in which the 40-hour work week can be compressed into four days or less instead of five; skeletal workforce in which a minimum number of workers must report to the office; shift work in which employees will be allowed to work in batches to ensure an office is running 24/7; “flexitime” in which a worker can show up anytime between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. as long as they complete the 40-hour work week; and work weekends.

Front line workers

Interior Undersecretary Jonathan E. Malaya revealed that he is currently reviewing the possible impact of the measure on his operations, as he is a “front-line agency”.

“The DILG Personnel Division is drafting our proposed guidelines to comply with the CSC MC, which we will then subject to consultation with the Employees Union before submitting to the SILG (Secretary of Home and Local Government),” Malaya said.

Acting Comelec spokesman John Rex C. Laudiangco said the issue had not yet been addressed by Comelec en banc.

Comelec Employees Union (Comelec-EU) President Mark Christopher “Mac” Ramirez said that while they welcome the FWA option, it may not be applicable to them as they prepare for the upcoming Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (BSKE) elections.

“We will begin voter registration next month and preparations for December 5, 2022 are already underway. This means that we will be in our offices daily and will have to work overtime even on holidays and weekends,” Ramirez said in a text message.

For her part, Social Welfare spokeswoman Irene B. Dumlao said she would discuss the MC with their human resources management and development departments.

Waiting list

On Tuesday, CSC Commissioner Aileen A. Lizada said they are still waiting for their regional offices to submit the list of government offices, which will implement the FWAs.

Under MC 2022-6, government offices must submit their internal guidelines to CSC regional offices for registration.

CSC said earlier that it will be up to government offices to determine whether they will adopt FWAs in any of their departments.

“We will see which agencies adopt working arrangements. We will also see what type they will use if they decide to adopt it,” Lizada said.

She said they expect to release an initial consolidated list of agencies offering flexible working hours by next month.

“It takes time for them to make [the internal guidelines]. We will give them a month. Hopefully they will be able to submit by then. But at present, many offices are already requesting help from our regional offices [for their guidelines]“, said Lizada.

Labor reaction

Federation of Free Workers (FFW) President Sonny Matula supports the integration of the FWA into the public sector, seeing it as beneficial for employees.

“In principle, FFW welcomes such arrangements as long as they do not disrupt the continued provision of regular government services from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.,” Matula said in SMS.

The policy is also backed by the general secretary of the Independent Confederation of Public Service Labor (PSLINK), Annie Enriquez-Geron, but the union leader said she was concerned about the execution of the flexible working guidelines, especially more that it stated that no stakeholder consultation was carried out for its creation.

“There has been no consultation with the public sector unions on this despite our letters since 2020 for a dialogue [with CSC] to discuss and determine which of the existing jobs can be done from home and the framework in which it should be implemented,” Geron said.

She said they hope CSC will release a clarification on the job performance assessment tools that will be used in the implementation of flexible working hours.

Asked about PSLINK’s concerns, Lizada said relevant government agencies have already engaged with their regional offices to clarify said details.

Private sector implementation

CSC has decided to institutionalize the FWA, which has been implemented by many government agencies since the onset of the Covid-19 crisis in early 2020, to provide more options for public sector employees to achieving a work-life balance and minimizing the risk of infections.

The program is already widely implemented in the private sector, especially during the pandemic.

Data from the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) showed from January to May this year, 193,557 workers were affected by FWAs implemented by 3,681 establishments.

The most commonly implemented labor framework agreements for private companies are reduced working days, compressed working week and teleworking.

“In terms of establishment size, the majority of establishments that adopted flexible working arrangements were small businesses [45 percent or 1,554]said the DOLE in its latest displacement report.

Some government officials are pushing for the massive implementation of flexible working arrangements to help employees cope with rising transportation costs due to rising fuel prices. This situation is compounded by the severe shortage of space on public transport, as many operators and drivers have reduced their operations, unable to bear the additional burden of soaring fuel prices amid the authorities’ inability to adjust prices.

Ashley C. Reynolds