The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) is considering letting companies and businesses “distressed” by the pandemic defer their payout of the 13th-month bonus. Labor Secretary Silvestre Belo III said that they aim to find the balance between the welfare of workers and employers in this crisis. 

He emphasizes that while some companies may be excused from 13th-month pay, he prefers a deferment, with companies giving the bonus at a later date. They are yet to define what “distressed” business establishments are in order to lay down the grounds for exemption.

Under Presidential Decree No. 851, companies are required to give workers 13th-month pay (twelfth of a person’s annual earnings) on or before Dec. 25. This is on top of other year-end bonuses workers receive. DOLE is looking into options such as totally exempting micro, small and medium enterprises from granting the said bonus. Another option is to exclude companies with a capital of more than P1 million from delaying the payout.

Some labor groups (along with a couple of senators) appealed this proposal of DOLE, saying that this deferment or complete exemption is “heartless.” They believe that the pandemic must not be “an excuse to deprive  workers of their rights.” Instead, they urged Congress to set aside funds to help displaced workers, poor sectors and small businesses recover from the economic impact of COVID-19.

“The 13th month bonus is the only thing that serves to make up for the expenses and needs of each worker and their families,” said Eduard Ellorenco Jr., spokesperson of the Workers Alliance in Central Luzon.

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