The Department of Labor and Employment recently urged employers in the private sector to grant paid isolation and quarantine leaves for their workers who either tested positive for COVID-19 or are identified as close contacts of a COVID case.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said in an advisory that the paid isolation and quarantine leaves should be on top of existing leave benefits under company policies.
“Employers are urged, in consultation with the employees or employees’ representative if any, to adopt and implement an appropriate paid isolation and quarantine leave program on top of existing leave benefits under the company policy, Collective Bargaining Agreement, the Labor Code of the Philippines, and special laws,” the DOLE chief said in his Labor Advisory 01 s.2022.
The advisory is requiring all private employers to complete home-based or facility-based quarantine or isolation periods of employees identified as either a close contact, suspected, probable or confirmed case, in accordance with the guidelines of the Department of Health.
“The paid isolation and quarantine leaves shall be without prejudice to other benefits provided by the Social Security System and the Employees Compensation Commission,” it states.
Current DOH guidelines require fully vaccinated asymptomatic close contacts of people who are either positive for COVID-19 or are potentially infected to quarantine for at least 5 days from potential exposure. For the unvaccinated or partially vaxxed, quarantine is longer at 14 days.
People who have tested positive are required to isolate at least 7 days for fully the vaxxed but asymptomatic to as long as 21 days for those with severe symptoms.
With the Philippines logging record numbers of COVID cases in this latest surge, scores of workers and employees are bound to be either infected or affected. Whilst the DOLE advisory is helpful and timely, mere words are mostly useless if not backed by the necessary legislation which should include financial support from government if it is to benefit employees, employers and the country in general as it adjusts to a post-pandemic world.
Will the DOLE and government go a step further and put their words into concrete action as we find the ways and means to emerge safely and sustainably from the crippling effects of this pandemic?*