Villanueva to employers: Prioritize health and safety of workers amid nCoV threat

MANILA, Philippines – Employers should not hesitate to send home workers who show symptoms of the flu but continue to report to work and consider the occupational health and safety of their entire organization, according to Senator Joel Villanueva.
Villanueva to employers: Prioritize health and safety of workers amid nCoV threat

At the same time, Villanueva urged the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to issue a pertinent labor advisory reminding private companies of their obligations to comply with labor standards particularly the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) law.

READ: DOH confirms first novel coronavirus case in the Philippines

"While the public's awareness of the prevailing health scare concerning the novel coronavirus (nCoV) remains high, our labor officials should seize the moment to reiterate that the health and safety of our workers must be of paramount concern to employers. Our OSHS law states this principal clearly and unequivocally," said Villanueva, chair of the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment, and Human Resources Development. "The labor advisory will also serve as a warning for companies who think that they can tip toe around prevailing regulations without any consequence."

In a statement, Villanueva also credited the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration for issuing a timely bulletin to its overseas welfare offices across the world about the nCoV using information from the World Health Organization. The advisory, dated January 24, 2020, contains travel precautions and related advice to the public, which is clearly directed to overseas Filipino workers in various parts of the world, the senator said.

In the local perspective, the DOLE could take cue from their counterparts in the Department of Health, which have been aggressive in informing the public of the proper precautions to avoid nCoV and the suspected and confirmed incidences in the country, according to the lawmaker.

"We hope to see this similar resolve from our friends in the labor department for the benefit of our workers," he added. "The most important action we can do is preventing the spread of illnesses as simple as the flu."

Right now, the practical approach on preventing an outbreak is a sustained information drive on the issue for workers and employers, Villanueva pointed out.

He also appealed for calm after the DOH confirmed the first case of nCoV in the country on Thursday afternoon.

To minimize work disruptions, Villanueva encouraged the private sector to adopt telecommuting or working from home as a work arrangement for employees whose tasks can be done remotely. Republic Act No. 11165, or the Telecommuting law which Villanueva principally authored and sponsored, institutionalizes telecommuting as a work arrangement and harmonizes its principles with the Labor Code.

— The Summit Express

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