GCQ Extension in Metro Manila: Effects on Employment

With July starting today, new guidelines have come out of Malacañang on the status of the various areas of the Philippines during the Community Quarantine.

President Duterte makes his bi-monthly address on the COVID-19 issues
President Duterte makes his bi-monthly address on the COVID-19 issues

While Cebu City remains on Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ), the only area in the country still at this heightened level of quarantine, Metro Manila remains on General Community Quarantine (GCQ) for at least another 15 days. The National Capital Region (NCR) has been joined by the provinces of Benguet, Cavite, and Rizal, who will also remain on GCQ until July 15, at least.

Map of Metro Manila

Other areas in the Visayas to remain on GCQ include: Leyte, Ormoc, and Southern Leyte; and Mandaue City, Lapu-Lapu City, Talisay City, Minglanilla, and Consolacion, all in Cebu. The rest of the country has been placed on Modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ), the lowest level of quarantine, with the most relaxed conditions.

While the MGCQ areas will now allow public transportation to resume, you will also see reopening of dine-in restaurants (half capacity), cinemas, gyms, and limited allowance in public gatherings.

However, with around 80% of the Philippine economic production located in Metro Manila and Calabarzon, this means that a lot of businesses will still remain closed or on limited workforce for another fifteen (15) days.

How will that affect employment?

For many, this will mean that they can now go back to work as transport in the MGCQ areas is open again, and jeeps will be running once more. And this is good news for those from the surrounding provinces that have been limited to Work From Home (WFH) or No Work No Pay (NWNP) because they were unable to get transport to their jobs in the NCR. With the increase in availability of Public Transport in provinces such as Laguna, Batangas, and Bulacan, it means they can now get to work in Metro Manila.

Public transport jeepneys and tricycles are now running in MGCQ areas
Public transport jeepneys and tricycles are now running in MGCQ areas

 

Opening of the transport systems in outlying provinces now allows workers whose workplace is in Metro Manila to get to work. Buses have been running for the past couple of weeks to NCR from the various areas in the surrounding provinces. The problem previously was the ability to get to the bus departure points from worker’s homes. Now, with tricycles and jeeps being allowed to run normally with social distancing in place, workers can get from home to the bus depots to catch their buses to Metro Manila.

Buses are running from the surrounding provinces to Metro Manila
Buses are running from the surrounding provinces to Metro Manila

 

For employers whose employees live in the areas now in MGCQ, this means that they can require the return of their workers, without needing to give consideration to transport. And while Cavite and Rizal provinces may be still on GCQ, with limited transport available, workers from other surrounding provinces are now able to travel to work without trouble.

This also means that those living and working in the MGCQ provinces, public transport is now available for them to get to work easily.

However, the problem of transportation still remains inside Metro Manila when traveling between cities (say from QC to Pasay), as well as those living in the provinces of Cavite and Rizal, whose work is in Metro Manila.

Probationary Employees and Return to Work

For those on probationary contracts who have still been unable to get to work, this will mean an end to the suspension period for their probation, and a resumption of their probationary period at last.

For more than three months, probationary workers have had their probationary periods suspended if they were not working. This means that, once they go back to work, their probationary periods will be extended by the total number of days that they were not working due to the quarantine.

Quarantine period not included for probationary period of employees
Quarantine period not included for probationary period of employees

 

For workers going back to work on July 1, who have been off work since the beginning of the ECQ on March 17, this has been a 106-day trial. And for those with more than 106 days left on their probation periods, the total will be added to their probation, extending it by the same amount.

Example 1:

Employee A started work on February 1, and worked right up to the ECQ on March 17. The company reopened on July 1, and Employee A went back to work. Employee A’s last day of probation would normally have been on July 29. However, with the 106 days to be added, his new last day of probation will be on November 12.

Example 2:

Employee started work on October 1, 2019. He was forced to stop work when the quarantine was set in place on March 17. As he was already on his 168th day of probation, he only has 12 days remaining. Assuming he goes back to work on July 1, his new date of regularization will be July 12.

Employers and the Return to Work

For employers, this now means that more of their employees can get to work, and can no longer use the reasons of no public transport to stay at home.

Previously, the “excuses” for not going to work were the “imminent danger” situation that the ECQ and COVID-19 placed on people traveling to work. However, since the drop from ECQ, the opening up of more companies and workplaces, and the employers being required to follow the DTI and DOLE Interim Guidelines on Workplace Prevention and Control of COVID-19, this claim of “imminent danger” no longer applied.

Guidelines for employers to protect employees in the workplace
Guidelines for employers to protect employees in the workplace

 

The next reason given for not being able to return to work was the lack of public transport available from the provinces to Metro Manila. While there have been buses running into the NCR from the various surrounding provinces since the middle of June, getting to the bus departure locations has proven to be hard for many workers that live far from these depots and bus terminals.

This restriction no longer applies in Laguna, Batangas, and Bulacan, as the move to MGCQ now means that public transport is permitted at full strength. Now, a Return to Work Order (RTWO) for those employees in the aforementioned provinces can be issued and the employee expected to return to work, especially within these provinces and into Metro Manila.

However, there may still be issues with those living in provincial MGCQ areas, yet working in provincial GCQ areas (i.e. between Laguna and Cavite), as public transport will not be able to pass the provincial boundaries.

For any and all queries related to the Labor Code, general employment concerns, and COVID-19 related employment issues, you can contact us here through our contact page, or send us a message on Facebook.

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