DATE: August 05, 2021
TO: House of Representatives, Committee on Labor and Employment
RE: Comments on House Bill Numbered 6253, An Act Granting Mental Health Wellness Leave to All Employees in the Private Sector
The People Management Association of the Philippines (PMAP), as the preeminent organization of human resources practitioners and people managers in the country, submits and expresses its position and comment on House Bill 6253, An Act Granting Mental Health Wellness Leave to All Employees in the Private Sector.
I. PMAP’s General Position
PMAP is with the proponents of the bill that there is a need to promote and protect the mental well-being of individuals, including employees, especially with the continued stress and struggles brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. The necessity on mental health is as important as other aspects of a person’s health. Mental health is phenomenological. As such, it is individualistic, personal, and situational. It is a matter of an individual’s ability to cope with mental health issues. In cases of outright psychological dysfunction, the “treatment” is between employee and the clinical therapist or psychiatrist. Recently, and fortunately, the society has adapted to recognize the importance of mental health and the seriousness of mental health issues, gradually getting rid of the stigma associated with such issues. However, a five-day leave to prevent or cure a mental health problem of a person demands a medical basis. More so with mandating it for all employees in a generic fashion.
It is not unknown to many that business establishments are also impacted by the pandemic, continuously struggling to keep their businesses afloat and endeavoring to keep their employees. The proposed 5-day “mental health wellness leave” charged to the employer, as was stated on the bill, is an additional burden to the already struggling employer, because:
– It is an additional expense and an additional interruption to business operations.
– On the other hand, the need for a mental break by employees through the availment of a leave may already be addressed by the vacation leave credits and service incentive leave credits currently granted to employees. Many employers grant more leave credits than the statutory SIL. Competitive employers grant 10-20 leave credits per annum to employees which may be used by employees for their mental wellness break.
DOLE Department Order 208-2020 also already provides:
– Mechanisms on the promotion of mental wellness in the workplace and on how employers can assist their employees who are suffering from mental health issues.
– The DO provides that employers and employees shall agree to certain work accommodations for employees with mental health condition.
– The DO also provides that the employer shall come up with a referral system for employees needing treatment for their mental health condition.
Employees’ mental well-being are being looked after by the current law and regulations. If the government will shoulder the employees’ salaries during the period of the proposed mental health leave, then the burden upon the employers may be minimized If the bill will be pursued, alternatively, exemptions could be made upon those employers who are already providing more than the statutory SIL to employees. This therefore adds up on the question on the necessity of a 5-day mental health leave as part of the sick leave entitlement. There are a lot of leaves already granted by companies. In the US, the employee perks of mental wellness
leave provision resulted in many leaves thus affected the drop in productivity, which in turn led to a drop in the US economy. If the employer has already provided 15 days of VL and 15 days of SL, the 5 days for mental health should be considered met. Additional mental health leave will be a burden to the employers unless such leave will be subsidies by SSS.
Thus, PMAP suggests:
- Firstly, that the promotion of mental wellbeing will be implemented in the workplace as a regulatory requirement under occupational health and safety.
- And secondly, that mental illnesses certified by competent authority will be included in the coverage of SSS benefits, PhilHealth, and insurance companies. The Philippine Mental Health Association, The Psychological Association of the Philippines, The Philippine Psychiatric Association are some competent authorities who could help draft the OSH standards and the redefinition of insurable mental illnesses.