With the present explosion of outsourcing business in the philippines, many women are just starting their work schedule in call centers and other business process outsourcing(BPO) companies when most of us are already crawling into bed. Women who work at night starting at 10:00 in evening until 6:00 in the morning, the following day, are working on night-shift or graveyard shift. Technically, there is a prohibition under our Labor Code (Article 130) prohibiting women, regardless of age, from working at night, with or without compensation.
But the Secretary of Labor may also grant exemption from this work prohibition pursuant to Article 131 of the Labor Code. The grounds for exemption stated under the Labor Code, are: (a)In cases of actual or impending emergencies caused by serious accident, fire, flood, typhoon, earthquake, epidemic or other disasters or calamity, to prevent loss of life or property, or in cases of force majeure or imminent danger to public safety; (b) In case of urgent work to be performed on machineries, equipment or installation, to avoid serious loss which the employer would otherwise suffer; (c) Where the work is necessary to prevent serious loss of perishable goods; (d) Where the woman employee holds a responsible position of managerial or technical nature, or where the woman employee has been engaged to provide health and welfare services; (e) Where the nature of the work requires the manual skill and dexterity of women workers and the same cannot be performed with equal efficiency by male workers; (f) Where the women employees are immediate members of the family operating the establishment or undertaking; and (g) Under other analogous cases exempted by the Secretary of Labor and Employment in appropriate regulations.
Call Center and BPO companies may apply for exemption from this work prohibition by writing a letter request directly to the Secretary of Labor, stating the appropriate grounds for requesting for an exemption. The Secretary of Labor usually grants the exemption provided that the requesting company provides the facilities and conditions which will ensure the safety and health of their women employees, such as: separate toilet and lavatories and at least a dressing room for women, sleeping quarters, a nursery and mandatory benefits (both for male and female workers) such as health insurance and transportation allowance. This is on top of the mandatory benefits such as night-shift differential, premium pay, and holiday pay.
According to my sources in the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), there are a number of outsourcing companies out there who are permitting their women employees to work at night without the required exemption – and the DOLE people are just waiting for the right time to make a surprise inspection in the premises of these companies. Well, if we have to be strict about it, outsourcing companies who are already permitting their women employees toÂ work on night-shift without the required exemption from the Secretary of Labor are operating illegally.
I recall the first time I applied for an exemption of this night work prohibition of women was for and in behalf of a BPO client Proview Global Administration, Inc. You can also see a copy of the Order of exemption issued by the Secretary of Labor here.