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Villanueva urges DOLE to tell employers to comply with health standards, urges telecommuting where possible

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By Vanne Terrazola

Senator Joel Villanueva appealed to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) on Thursday to immediately issue labor advisories reminding employers to comply with occupational safety and health standards (OSHS), following the confirmed case of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in the Philippines.

The Department of Health (DOH) on Thursday afternoon disclosed that a 38-year-old Chinese woman from Wuhan, China tested positive for 2019-nCoV. The Chinese national arrived in the Philippines last Jan. 21 via Hong Kong.

Sen. Joel Villanueva (Senate of the Philippines Facebook page / MANILA BULLETIN)

Sen. Joel Villanueva (Senate of the Philippines Facebook page / MANILA BULLETIN)

“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,” Villanueva, who chairs the Senate committee on labor, employment, and human resources development, said in a statement.

Villanueva said employers should allow their workers to go home if they show symptoms of flu so as not to compromise the health and safety of their entire organization.

The labor advisory from DOLE, he said, would “serve as a warning for companies who think that they can tiptoe around prevailing regulations without any consequence.”

The OSHS Law, or Republic Act No. 11058, requires employers to ensure that workers be safe from risks and hazards in their workplaces.

Villanueva also encouraged the private sector to adopt telecommuting as a work arrangement for employees whose tasks can be done remotely.

Republic Act No. 11165 or the Telecommuting Law institutionalizes telecommuting as a work arrangement and harmonizes its principles with the Labor Code.

He said the DOLE should take a cue from the DOH, which, he said, has been aggressive in making the public aware on the precautions to avoid the new virus.

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

Meanwhile, Villanueva praised the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) for issuing a timely bulletin to its overseas welfare offices across the world about 2019-nCoV using information from the World Health Organization.

According to the senator, the Jan. 24 advisory contained travel precautions and related advice to the public, and is clearly directed to overseas Filipino workers around the world.

Villanueva also appealed for calm after the DOH confirmed the first case of 2019-nCoV in the country.

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