December 12, 2020

The Institute for Occupational Health and Safety Development (IOHSAD), a non-government organization that assists workers in promoting and protecting occupational safety and health rights, fully supports and calls for the immediate passage of the pro-worker House Bill 7909 or Paid Pandemic Leave Bill authored by Reps. Arlene D. Brosas, Carlos Isagani T. Zarate, Ferdinand R. Gaite, Eufemia C. Cullamat, France L. Castro and Sarah Jane I. Elago.

Measures to control the COVID-19 pandemic made the workforce its collateral damage. Lockdowns displaced 15.9 million formal and informal workers1 and left 3.8 million still unemployed as of October 20202. Government assistance for workers left around 2.6 million unsupported out of the 4.6 million in need3. Guidelines for work resumption exposed workers to multiple outbreaks4,5,6,7 in the background of unclear quarantine, isolation, testing, and treatment protocols without pay8from lax protocol implementation and lack of social safety nets. Worker welfare should not suffer at the expense of supporting the economy when both are essential in stabilizing this crisis. By providing paid leaves during the pandemic, we can uphold public health while protecting the workers, the workplace, and the economy.

Paid leaves eliminate the dilemma of having to choose between health and income9-,12. Without fear of losing their jobs or incomes, workers are less likely to report while sick, reducing the spread of diseases in the workplace and the community. With adequate financial support, workers can seek consult and treatment without cutting corners for fear of going into health care-induced debt. With dedicated time to attend to their illness, workers are relieved of the pressure to continue working while unwell, speeding up their recovery and preventing the progression of their disease into a more severe one. All of which are crucial during a pandemic.

Compensation mechanisms are essential for public health compliance with quarantine measures13. This is consistent with how compensation of wages from workdays lost increased the likelihood of mandatory quarantine compliance to 94% in Israel, which could have dropped to 57% otherwise14. Furthermore, the implementation of a national two-week paid leave policy in the United States resulted in non-essential workers spending an average of 4.2% more hours at home, 7.7% fewer hours away from home, and 6.1% fewer hours at work daily15. Cuts on paid sick leaves, on the other hand, led to a 20% increase in absences from infectious diseases in Spain11,  and their unavailability in 2009 fueled workplace transmission and infected around 7 million people in the US alone during the H1N1 pandemic10.

Paid leaves enhance the workplace. These provide job satisfaction and decrease short term job separation by 25%16, increase retention of experienced workers, and reduce costs from hiring and training new employees12. These also improve productivity as shown by the 4.6% increase in revenue per full-time employee, 6.80% increase in profit per full-time employee, 3.20% increase in human capital return of investment ratio, and 5.70% increase in return on human capital investment among participants in the joint Panorama and American Sustainable Business Council study in 201917. More importantly, these minimize losses incurred during outbreaks by facilitating efficient case identification and immediate containment of the disease12. With less disruption of operations from shutdowns and less expenditure from subsequent health care needs, providing paid leaves pay off during a pandemic.

Paid leaves revitalize the economy. These transform workplaces into safer ones and keep workers well-protected, which attract greater labor participation12. These encourage workers to stay in jobs where they can keep developing their skills and further increase their productivity, which leads to economic growth12. These promote efficient case identification and contact tracing, which allows easing of restrictions and safer reintegration after a lockdown18. And when funded by the government, these reduce the financial burden on employers, which decreases worker layoffs, company closures and the demand for unemployment benefits and job retention schemes11. While numerous intervening factors such as economic stability, health care capacity, and pre-existing government policies make it difficult to see the impact of having paid leaves during a pandemic, several countries including South Korea, New Zealand, and Australia all highlight the significance of social protection programs in their successful control of COVID-1919.

The proposed Paid Pandemic Leave Bill or House Bill 7909 optimizes these benefits to control the COVID-19 pandemic and prepare for future ones with the welfare of all stakeholders in mind. It validates that social protection is affordable and is a worthwhile investment. Countries with larger allotment on paid sick leaves report higher economic productivity and faster recovery from crisis10,19. However, it will remain inadequate as long as it is not available to all and remains unaccompanied by efforts to improve contact tracing, testing, and access to health care.

IOHSAD recognizes that occupational safety and health is inseparable from livelihood, especially during this pandemic. Workers face an invisible enemy on top of the existing hazards in the workplace in exchange for the opportunity to provide for themselves and their families. It is unacceptable that these workers suffer from the minimum standards we have set as a response to this pandemic. It is time to show the Filipinos that we value their health more than their ability to yield profits. The immediate passage of the Paid Pandemic Leave Bill can regain the workers’ trust and create a robust defense to combat this pandemic. Social health protection is a human right10, and it is the government’s responsibility to uphold it.

To further improve the bill, may we suggest this recommendation on the final bill that will be approved by the Committee on Labor:

We suggest that the definitions for cases covered be updated according to local and international guidelines for broader inclusion in this policy.

  1. Expand close contacts to include individuals who, within two days before and 14 days after the onset of symptoms of a probable or confirmed case20-24,
    1. had face-to-face interactions with a probable or confirmed case within one meter for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more regardless of personal protective equipment use
    1. had direct physical contact with a probable or confirmed case
    1. provided direct care for a probable or confirmed case without the recommended personal protective equipment
    1. were involved in other situations and identified by local risk assessment as close contacts as well
  2.  Revise suspect cases to include persons who
    1. present with acute onset of fever and cough or three or more among symptoms: fever, cough, general weakness, fatigue, headache, myalgia, sore throat, coryza, dyspnea, anorexia, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and altered mental status within 14 days from
      1. residing in or working at an area with a high risk of viral transmission, such as closed residential, camp or camp-like settings; or
      1. staying in or travel to an area with community transmission; or
      1. working in a health setting whether within health facilities or households.
    1. develop severe acute respiratory illness described as having a fever of at least 38oC and cough within the last ten days that required hospitalization.
  3. Update probable cases to include
    1. close contacts who develop symptoms as mentioned
    1. suspect cases with chest imaging suggestive of COVID-19
    1. persons with recent onset of loss of smell or taste in the absence of any other identified cause, and
    1. deceased close contacts or epidemiologic links to clusters having at least one confirmed case who developed respiratory distress preceding death

We also ask to extend coverage to self-employed individuals and members of the informal sector, who are hardest hit by this pandemic24,25.


[1] Bisenio, X. (2020, August 21). Sap exaggerated, millions left behind. Retrieved December 7, 2020 from https://www.ibon.org/sap-exaggerated-millions-left-behind/

[2]Mapa, D. (2020, December 3). Employment Situation in October 2020. Retrieved December 7, 2020 from https://psa.gov.ph/content/employment-situation-october-2020

[3]Cruz, M. (2020, September 9). SAP for displaced workers not enough. Manilastandard.net. Retrieved December 7,2020 from https://manilastandard.net/mobile/article/333750

[4] San Juan, A. (2020, July 8). 4 more MRT staff have COVID-19; 202 now infected. Manila Bulletin. Retrieved December 8, 2020 from https://mb.com.ph/2020/07/08/4-more-mrt-staff-have-covid-19-202-now-infected/

[5] CNN Philippines staff (2020, July 10). Over 300 workers in BGC construction site test positive for COVID-19. CNN Philippines. Retrieved December 7, 2020 from https://cnnphilippines.com/news/2020/7/10/Over-300-workers-in-BGC-construction-site-test-positive-for-COVID-19.html?fbclid=IwAR36pamrE1W0cBtZK_MX1o-qffFEv3n7ANe5sek_3cybyb1IgTkIFcNdV3Y

[6] Casilao, J. (2020, July 28). 15 companies in QC being monitored due to 280 workplace-related COVID-19 infections. GMA News Online. Retrieved December 7, 2020 from https://www.gmanetwork.com/news/news/metro/748876/15-companies-in-qc-being-monitored-due-to-280-workplace-related-covid-19-infections/story/?fbclid=IwAR0nrEJa2rOEyLoSpiPmjVNz8LrYkLDkzbB1iTbM9w10Ho94_3tpMBzM3-E

[7] Datu, D. (2020, July 30). Operasyon ng kompanya sa Laguna sinuspinde sa dami ng COVID-19 cases. ABS-CBN News. Retrieved December 7, 2020 from https://news.abs-cbn.com/news/07/30/20/operasyon-ng-kompanya-sa-laguna-sinuspinde-sa-dami-ng-covid-19-cases?fbclid=IwAR2qxUw_phId9tDn_HrWIvjL7EqWYpguEIg0_-gOpAC-xnmOlOx0tOs9S6Y

[8] Department of Labor and Employment and Department of Trade Industry (2020, April 30). DTI and DOLE Interim Guidelines on Workplace Prevention and Control of COVID-19

[9] International Labour Organization (n.d) Pillar 3: Protecting workers in the workplace. ILO Policy Brief on COVID-19. Retrieved December 9, 2020 from https://www.ilo.org/global/topics/coronavirus/impacts-and-responses/WCMS_739049/lang–en/index.htm

[10] Scheil-Adlung, X. & Sandner, L. (2010). The case for paid sick leave[PDF]. World Health Organization.

[11] Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (2020, May 20). Supporting livelihoods during the COVID-19 crisis: closing the gaps in safety nets. OECD Policy Responses to Coronavirus (COVID-19).

[12] Joint Economic Committee United States Congress (n.d). The Economic Benefits of Paid Leave: Fact Sheet

[13] Coughlin, C. (2018, Mar 6). Public Health Policy: Revising the Need for a Compensation System for Quarantine to Maximize Compliance. Wake Forest Journal of Law and Policy, 2017

[14] Bodas, M. & Peleg, K. (2020, April 9). Self-Isolation Compliance In The COVID-19 Era Influenced By Compensation: Findings From A Recent Survey In Israel. Health Affairs 39(6) 10.1377/hlthaff.2020.00382. https://doi.org/10.1377/hlthaff.2020.00382

[15] Andersen, M., Maclean, J., Pesko, M. & Simon, K. (2020). Effect of a Federal Paid Sick Leave Mandate On Working And Staying At Home During The Covid-19 Pandemic: Evidence From Cellular Device Data [PDF]. National Bureau of Economic Research Working Papers

[16] Hill H. D. (2013). Paid Sick Leave and Job Stability. Work and occupations40(2), 10.1177/0730888413480893. https://doi.org/10.1177/0730888413480893

[17 Panorama & American Sustainable Business Council (2019). The Business Impacts of Paid Leave

[18] World Health Organization (2020). The 6 Steps

[19] Bremmer, I (2020, June 12). The Best Global Responses to COVID-19 Pandemic. Time. Retrieved December 10, 2020 from https://time.com/5851633/best-global-responses-covid-19/

[20] Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (2020, October 21). Glossary of Key Terms. Retrieved December 10, 2020 from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/php/contact-tracing/contact-tracing-plan/appendix.html

[21] World Health Organization (2020, May 10). Contact tracing in the context of COVID-19

[22] Department of Health (2020). Department Memorandum No. 2020-0439 Omnibus Interim Guidelines on Prevention, Detection, Isolation, Treatment and Reintegration Strategies for COVID-19

[23] Department of Health (2020). Workplace Handbook on COVID-19 Management and Prevention

[24] International Labour Organization (2020). In the face of a pandemic: Ensuring Safety and Health at Work

[25] International Labour Organization (2020, September 8). Extending social protection to informal workers in the COVID-19 crisis: country responses and policy considerations