To ease their burden during times of disasters or calamities, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima urged the government to grant basic hazard allowances for essential workers for both public and private sectors and additional hazard pay for all public health workers.
Last April 27, De Lima filed Senate Bill (SB) No. 1439 to amend Section 13 of Republic Act (RA) 10121, otherwise known as the Philippine Disaster Risk and Management Act of 2010, to extend the hazard pay grant to all essential workers in both public and private sectors that will be tasked to deliver or augment delivery of services during state of emergencies.
Existing laws, including RA 7305 or the Magna Carta for Public Health Workers, only grants hazard pay to health workers employed by the government in times of national emergency and similar situations.
“This bill therefore seeks to grant hazard allowance to employees of government and those belonging to the private sector who are mobilized to deliver or augment the delivery of disaster risk reduction programs and activities,” De Lima said.
“Together with our health workers are other members of the public and private sector who continuously work and serve our country despite the grave danger that this [COVID-19] pandemic pose to their safety and well-being,” she added.
De Lima noted that workers such as security guards, bank tellers, cashiers, media workers, food service employees, traffic enforcers, police, and office clerks, to name a few, deserve to be given additional pay because of the additional risks that they go through in the performance of their duties during times of crisis.
The lady Senator from Bicol explained that although the responsibilities of the abovementioned workers differ from healthcare frontliners, they too “have the right to be protected and be assisted by the government”.
SB 1439 leaves it up to the Secretary of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), and heads of other implementing agencies to recommend how much basic hazard pay the essential workers will receive.
In addition to the widened coverage of hazard pay for essential workers, SB 1439 also proposes compensatory benefits and individual personal accident insurance for all workers, in both public and private sectors, who will incur “illness, death or injury” in the performance of their duties during state of emergencies.
De Lima also urges the government to award public health workers (PHW) and temporary human resources for health (HRH) workers, an additional hazard allowance.
“Additional hazard allowances are likewise sought for public health workers and temporary human resources for health during a state of calamity,” De Lima said.
HRH workers, as described by the Bayanihan Law are “medical and allied medical staff” which complements the health workforce and those tasked to construct, establish or man temporary medical facilities created to accept those affected by disasters or other crisis.
Currently, the existing hazard pay as described by RA 7305 is equivalent to at least 25% of the basic salary of public health workers with Salary Grade 19 and below; and 5% of those with Salary Grade 20 and above.
The additional hazard allowance, De Lima notes in her bill, should be distinct and separate from the hazard pay granted by RA 7305; and will be based upon the recommendation of the Secretary of the Department of Health (DOH). /Stacy Ang