The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has issued new guidelines on the conduct of visits and inspections to enforce labor standards in workplaces, and has identified eight “priority establishments” for inspection.
The guidelines are laid down through Department Order (DO) 238-23, titled “Rules on the Administration and Enforcement of Labor Standards Pursuant to Article 128 of the Labor Code of the Philippines, as Renumbered, and Republic Act No. 11058.”
DO 238-23, issued on April 12, 2023, aims to strengthen further the exercise of the visitorial and enforcement power of the Labor Secretary to improve compliance with general labor standards, occupational safety and health (OSH) standards, and other social legislations in all workplaces.
DO 238-23 identifies eight establishments to be prioritized for inspection. These priority establishments are those engaged or involved in the following:
- Engaged in hazardous work
- Employing children and/or women
- Construction projects
- Philippine-registered ships or vessels engaged in domestic shipping
- Fishing vessels
- Engaged in contracting and subcontracting arrangements
- Subject of Single-Entry Approach referral, anonymous complaint or request for inspection
- Other establishments as may be determined by the Labor Secretary
The new guidelines also provide that all employers must keep and maintain employment records for at least three years. During the inspection, the employer is required to present the employment records and such other compliance required under the occupational safety and health standards and Republic Act No. 11058.
A special inspection team of labor inspectors (LIs) and/or assistant labor inspectors (ALIs) from the regional offices is to be organized by the Labor Secretary to conduct inspections in collaboration with other concerned government agencies and local government units (LGUs).
The regulation states that DOLE shall conduct three kinds of approaches to enforce labor standards: technical and advisory visits (TAVs) specifically covering micro establishments, labor inspections, and OSH investigations.
The technical and advisory visit (TAV) will cover micro establishments employing less than 10 workers. Invitation letters are to be sent to micro establishments indicating the date and venue of the TAV.
The LI or ALI will deliver technical and advisory services covering general labor standards, occupational safety and health standards, productivity toolbox, child and family welfare program, and other DOLE policies and programs.
The technical and advisory services may be conducted through online, offsite or hybrid sessions.
Micro establishments found to have compliance gaps will be required to prepare and accomplish an action plan indicating the interventions and further technical assistance needed, and have three months to correct the compliance gaps.
The establishment’s compliance will be monitored through online communication and a visit to the establishment will be conducted by the LI or ALI at the end of the three-month period.
The LI may inspect micro establishments in cases of unjustifiable failure to attend the TAV session despite receipt of two invitations; failure to accomplish the TAV checklist after receipt of two notifications; or failure to prepare an action plan.
To promote compliance by micro establishments, DO 238-23 states that DOLE will seek the support of LGUs in the conduct the TAV and labor inspection. DOLE will also work with LGUs, the trade department and other government agencies to implement community-based compliance programs and provide further business services to micro establishments.
Findings by the LIs of violation of mandatory social benefits by employers, such as the non-coverage of employees or non-remittance of premiums, will immediately be endorsed to SSS, Pag-IBIG and PhilHealth for their appropriate action after the lapse of the 20-day correction period, according to the new policy.
Meanwhile, for the conduct of labor inspection, the LI will present to an establishment an Authority to Inspect issued by the regional director.
In the presence of the employer and employees’ representative, the LI will examine employment records for the last three years, interview employees, and inspect work premises to determine compliance with general labor standards, OSH standards, and other regulations.
The LI will issue a Notice of Inspection results to the representatives of the employer and employees, including legitimate labor organizations complaining on behalf of the employees.
The employer must correct the violations of labor standards within 20 days from receipt of the inspection results.
On the other hand, in an OSH investigation, the regional director will issue an Authority to Investigate to the LI within 24 hours of receiving information of a disabling injury, imminent danger, or dangerouse occurrence.
The LI, after presenting the written authority to the establishment, will conduct the investigation and direct the employer to implement corrective actions to immediately abate imminent danger or apply temporary measures to prevent further disabling injury or dangerous occurrence should it occur during the inspection.
The LI will issue Notice of Investigation results container the facts surrounding the incident, initial findings, the violative act of fault of the employer, affected workplace of part of it, and recommendations, among others.
The Labor Secretary may immediately order a stoppage of work or the suspension of operation when imminent danger cannot be abated during the investigation, or non-compliance with OSH standards poses a grave and imminent danger to the workers.
Finally, DO 238-23 also provides the rules on the consequences of refusal to provide access to records, work premises, or employees during the conduct of inspection of investigation, including the procedure for the filing of criminal action against the employer. It also provides the guidelines for the disposition of cases, filing of an appeal, entering into a compromise agreement, and the imposition of penalties for violation of the Labor Code and failure to comply with OSH standards.