CONGRESS HAS moved to lift the ban on night work for women with the House committee on labor and employment having approved a bill seeking to lift the prohibition under the Labor Code of the Philippines in a bid to provide equal employment opportunities.
House Bill 4276, authored by Reps. Rufus B. Rodriguez (Cagayan de Oro City) and Juan Edgardo M. Angara (Aurora), seeks to strike out Article 130 of Presidential Decree 442, or the provision on “Working Conditions for Special Groups of Employees.”
The law states: “No woman, regardless of age, shall be employed or permitted or suffered to work, with or without compensation in any industrial undertaking or branch thereof between 10 at night and 6 in the morning of the following day.”
At the Senate, the counterpart Senate Bill 2701, which has been sponsored in plenary session by Senate President Pro-Tempore Jose “Jinggoy” E. Estrada, concurrent chairman of the committee on labor, employment and human resource development, has been pending second reading approval since Feb. 16.
Meanwhile, House committee on labor and employment chairman Emil L. Ong (2nd district, Samar) said in an interview that the measure, which is in the 21 priority bills of the Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council, will meet the demands of the business process outsourcing sector (BPO), particularly contact centers.
Also called call centers, such businesses operate round the clock on several shifts.
Sought for comment, Martin E. Crisostomo, executive director for external affairs of the Business Processing Association of the Philippines, said in a text message that lifting the ban on night work for women “is much needed by the IT (information technology)-BPO industry to facilitate the ease and convenience of doing business especially for the contact center sector where most of the work is at night shift.”
Women rights advocate and Gabriela party-list Rep. Luzviminda C. Ilagan said in a separate text message that “women should have the option and the opportunity to work anytime they want… But their safety must be ensured since women are more vulnerable than men at night.”
Employees Confederation of the Philippines President Edgardo M. Lacson said in another interview that the Labor department has been “tolerant” in allowing women to work at night, especially in call centers, despite the prohibition.
In November last year, the Labor department had issued Advisory 4 to provide protection to women in night shifts, particularly those in BPOs.
“In the case of call center workers, exemptions are granted provided the employers provide their female employees with the facilities and conditions which will ensure the safety and health of their women employees,” the advisory read.
Call center companies are allowed to file requests for exemption from the ban with Department of Labor and Employment, provided that prior inspectors will be made on their premises and working conditions.
Among the facilities and conditions required of call centers are: separate toilet and lavatories and at least a dressing room for women, sleeping quarters, a nursery and mandatory benefits for male and female workers such as health insurance and transportation allowance.