MANILA — Opposition Sen. Leila de Lima filed Senate Bill number 2148 to mandate paid pandemic leaves for all qualified employees in private or public sector should they contract COVID-19.

The Bill is seeking 10 days of paid leave for infected employees who need to undergo quarantine and whose natures of occupation cannot avail of telecommuting program or work from home scheme.

“Filipinos valiantly choose to work, to provide for their families and to save the economy, despite the danger this pandemic poses,” said De Lima said.

“Thus, it is only right that these employees be provided with the incentive of having paid leaves when they are confirmed to be COVID-19 positive and they need to undergo quarantine or isolation,” she added.

De Lima, who is also the Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Justice, Welfare and Rural Development, said granting the 10-day pandemic leave for employees will protect the welfare of workers and their families, ensure occupational safety and health in workplaces and avoid the further spread of COVID-19.

“With the colossal and detrimental effects of the pandemic, employees are forced to stay in a job that is low paying despite health hazards due to the virus and consequences of (contracting it),” she said.

“Those who are gainfully employed, while fortunate, struggle to do their jobs by personally reporting to their workplace despite risk of acquiring the virus on the way to and from work and even in the workplace itself,” she added.

Under the measure, the employee applying for the paid leave must submit the necessary medical records and other proof of eligibility to the employer for immediate action.

In the press statement released by the Senate, De Lima pointed out that the “signs of recovery” the government claims appeared otherwise as about 4.5 million Filipinos lost their jobs in 2020 while the unemployment rate reached the highest percentage in 15 years at 10.4 percent.

COMPENSABLE, WORK-RELATED DISEASE

Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Sec. Silvestre Bello III has announced the inclusion of COVID-19 in its list of occupational and work-related diseases by the Employees’ Compensation Commission (ECC). The move allowed infected COVID-19 infected workers to receive appropriate compensation from the government.

“ECC has been consistent in declaring the compensability of COVID-19 under the ‘increased risk’ theory of the ECP. But because of its commitment to be responsive and relevant to the changing demands of the time, the ECC requested the Occupational Safety and Health Center (OSHC) to study on the possible inclusion of COVID-19 in the ECC’s list of occupational and work-related diseases,” Bello, who chairs the ECC Board, said.

Bello said the approval has been issued under ECC’s Board Resolution number 21-04-14 on April 6, specifying the conditions for the compensability of COVID-19 under Annex A of the Amended Rules on Employees’ Compensation.

ECC Executive Director Stella Zipagan-Banawis said it is only proper that the Commission formulate and pass policies that will “effectively and efficiently respond to the current situation and changing needs of our workers.”

“We recognize the risk of those who courageously and willingly put their lives on the line as we continue to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic,” Banawis added.

According to DOLE’s press statement in relation to the approval, SSS and the GSIS serve as the administering agencies of the ECC in the implementation of EC policies and processing of EC claims as it cited Board Resolution number 20-03-07 dated 31 March 2020 which also directed the two agencies to “streamline the processing of EC claims of workers for diseases, including COVID-19, that were acquired in the line of duty during outbreaks, epidemics, and pandemics.”

“The ECC is continuously working to improve its policies and services to better serve the Filipino workers, especially during this trying time. We will persist to find ways and come up with measures that will mobilize assistance and respond to the crises brought by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Banawis said.

Meanwhile, the ECC has reminded the public that the non-inclusion of illnesses in the List of Occupational and Work-related Diseases under the Employees’ Compensation Program does not mean it is not compensable under the EC Program.

“Through the Increased Risk Theory concept, illnesses may be compensable if the causal connection between the illness and the nature of work or working conditions can be established,” it said.

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