With many businesses slowly returning to work by reason of the gradual lifting of the lockdown restrictions, it is crucial that health protocols must be maintained in order to ensure the health and safety of everyone in the workplace. Here are a few reminders for you to consider for an orderly and safe return to work.

Is my business/industry allowed to operate?

While the movement of personnel is strictly prohibited under the Omnibus Guidelines on the Implementation of Community Quarantine in the Philippines (Omnibus Guidelines) issued by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF), several exceptions were made for those availing of basic and/or essential services, and those working in industries allowed-to-operate.

For the full text of the Omnibus Guidelines, please click here.

To check the complete list of the business and industries allowed to operate, you may also check the Memorandum Circular issued by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) here.

If my business/industry is allowed to operate under the existing Omnibus Guidelines, up to how many of my employees or workers may I require to go to work?

Following the provisions of the Omnibus Guidelines, certain businesses/industries are allowed to operate at one hundred percent (100%) capacity, subject to safety and health protocols. Other businesses/industries are allowed to operate at fifty percent (50%) its normal operational capacity for its on-site operations, while the rest will be under alternative work arrangements as may be agreed upon by the employers and the employees.

Can my employees and myself pass through quarantine checkpoints in areas under different Community Quarantine regimes (MECQ to GCQ and vice versa) and what documents do we need, if any?

Yes. However, you need to present any of the following IDs:

1) IATF Accreditation ID;
2) Bonafide IDs issued by establishments exempted from the strict home quarantine requirement, or work ID; or
3) Rapid Pass IDs, enrolment for which “shall cover qualified private sector entities or persons”

Please note that BPOs, other export-oriented enterprises, public utility vehicles, and cargo vehicles are exempted from the ID requirements.

Are there government-mandated health guidelines my employees and I can follow to reduce COVID-19 transmission amongst my employees?

While the issued guidelines do not provide for specific requirements for health assessment relative to the return-to-work of employees, employers may opt to assess their employees out of prudence and corporate social responsibility to ensure the health and safety of everyone.

Nevertheless, the DOLE provided specific workplace COVID-19 prevention advisories and government reportorial requirements for business owners and employers for purposes of mitigating COVID-19 transmission as follows:

a) “High-touch areas” such as toilet bowls, doorknobs, elevator buttons, disinfection should be done once every two (2) hours;

b) Workstations and other areas, the same should be disinfected once a day;

c) Temperature of employees and visitors must be checked prior tot heir entry to the office;

d) Employers are required to provide facemasks and vitamins to their employees as well as personal protective equipment (PPEs) for employees who physically transact with third parties;

e) Observance of one (1) meter physical distancing in the workplace;

f) Creation/allotment of an isolation area for employees displaying COVID-19 symptoms;
Employees are advised to eat at their individual work stations, and if no individual workstations are present, communal areas may be used, subject to compliance with the one (1) meter social distancing requirement;

g) Employers are advised to adopt alternative work arrangements such as shortened workweek/hours, work-from-home, and alternate employee work schedule;

h) Employees are also required to accomplish daily health symptoms form in compliance with the DOH’s Risk-Based Public Health Standards for COVID-19 Mitigation and employers are required to submit to the DOLE a monthly report on illness, diseases, and injuries utilizing the DOLE Work Accident / Illness Report form. Business owners/employers may provide such notice without disclosing the identity of the COVID-19 suspect. Related thereto, business owners/employers are authorized to disclose employee data to the DOH and other appropriate government agencies, as provided for by law.

i) For purposes of contact tracing, sensitive medical data may be elicited by employers from their employees, with the corresponding obligation to acquire and safeguard the same pursuant to the Data Privacy Act. In this regard, employers are further advised to install COVID-19 reportorial hotlines for employees who will display symptoms of COVID-19.

For reference, the full text of the DTI-DOLE Interim Guidelines on Workplace Prevention and Control of COVID-19, DOH Guidelines on the Risk-Based Public Health Standards for COVID-19 Mitigation, the National Privacy Commission’s FAQs on data gathering and processing, and the National Privacy Commission’s PHE Bulletin No. 3 are available in the following links: