THE Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) will be meeting with the employers and workers’ groups to discuss the possibility of deferring the 13th month pay this year as the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) crisis continues to affect businesses.
In a briefing Monday, Labor Undersecretary Benjo Santos M. Benavidez said due to the “extraordinary times” there may be a need to consult both sides before deciding on a mutually-beneficial course of action.
“This is a delicate balancing act for the Department of Labor and Employment: timbangin ang interes ng manggagawa, timbangin ang interes ng employer (weigh the interest of workers and employers),” he said.
DoLE will be meeting with the sectoral representatives today to discuss the possibility of deferment and the extension of the period allowed to classify workers as temporarily displaced. Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III said last week he will release a department order soon on extending the maximum period of six months by three more months.
Payment of a 13th month pay is required under Presidential Decree No. 851.
Mr. Benavidez said there is no provision in the decree that allows employers to defer their payments. He added that a deferment will require a law to exempt distressed businesses that are not capable of paying their employees.
However, he added the implementing rules and regulations for the decree indicate that distressed employers can be exempted from making the payment altogether if they apply for an authorization from DoLE, which will examine whether they are qualified.
Section 3(a) of the implementing rules and regulations for Presidential Decree 851 exempts the following from making payments: “Distressed employers, such as (1) those which are currently incurring substantial losses or (2) in the case of non-profit institutions and organizations, where their income, whether from donations, contributions, grants and other earnings from any source, has consistently declined by more than forty (40%) percent of their normal income for the last two (2) years.”
Mr. Benavidez said in the last few years, no company has applied to DoLE for an exemption. — Gillian M. Cortez