As the Philippines navigate the new normal, several adjustments have to be made when it comes to the workplace. Now that employees are allowed to return to work, they are at higher risk to contract COVID-19, which makes them incapable of going to work for a minimum of 14 days.
While some companies have been providing paid sick leave benefits in compliance with the Labor Code, this does not usually cover the income loss for an employee who is infected with COVID-19. (Read: Vatican to Vaccinate Residents, Employees This Month)
To address this, a lawmaker has proposed a measure for additional paid leaves for qualified employees who test positive for the coronavirus during the duration of the pandemic.
Qualified employees, as defined in the bill, are those “required to report to the office, physically or virtually, for work on a regular basis.”
Senate Bill No. 2148
Senator Leila de Lima filed Senate Bill No. 2148 which will grant 10 working days of paid COVID-19 leave for employees who contract the virus and need to undergo quarantine. This also applies to those who are unable to work via telecommuting or a work-from-home arrangement, as well as asymptomatic patients.
Under the measure, an employee who applies for the paid pandemic leave must submit medical records and other proof of eligibility to the employer for immediate action. It shall be deemed approved if not acted upon within five days.
The bill also mandates the Social Security System (SSS) and the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) to reimburse the paid coronavirus leaves to the employers. Unused COVID-19 leaves, however, will not be cumulative and cannot be converted to cash. (Read: Teachers donate 100 days sick leave to colleague battling cancer)
“Filipinos valiantly choose to work, to provide for their families and to save the economy, despite the danger this pandemic poses,” the explanatory note of the bill read.
“Thus, it is only right that these employees be provided with the incentive of having paid leaves when they are confirmed to be COVID-19 positive and they need to undergo quarantine or isolation,” the senator wrote.
Benefits for Private Employees
While awaiting the passage of the bill, employees in the private sector who have used up their sick leaves can avail of the sickness benefit provided by the SSS.
Those who are eligible are the employees who are unable to work due to sickness or injury and confined either in a hospital or at home for at least four days. (Read: Have you looked into your workplace’s safety measures against COVID-19?)
The employee must have also paid at least three months of SSS contributions within the 12-month period immediately before the semester of sickness or injury and has notified the employer of the sickness, confinement, or injury.
More information is available on the SSS website.