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Article | Global News Briefs

Philippines: Mandate on workplace mental health policies, programs

Integrated Wellbeing|Health and Benefits|Future of Work
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By Raph Canillas and Soraya Manaloto | March 17, 2020

New labor department guidelines require employers to implement policies and programs to protect and support workers with mental health issues.

Employer Action Code: Act

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has issued “Guidelines for the Implementation of Mental Health Workplace Policies and Programs for the Private Sector” meant to safeguard worker mental health and assist workers with such issues. In broad terms, the new requirements are intended to complement other existing laws pertaining to mental health, occupational safety and the protection of disabled persons (most notably the Mental Health Act of 2018).

Key details

The guidelines, which took effect on March 4, 2020, include the following provisions:

  • They are applicable to all private sector employers, including those that deploy Overseas Filipino Workers.
  • Employers and employee representatives must jointly develop Mental Health Workplace Policies and Programs to be integrated with the company’s occupational health and safety policies and programs and submitted to regional DOLE authorities.
  • Employers are responsible for implementing and monitoring the policies via the company’s Occupational Safety and Health Committee (OSHC) — mandatory in establishments with 10 or more workers — or a designated employee where no OSHC exists.
  • Policies must address and provide support in a number of areas, including employee training on mental health risks and issues, work/life balance, counseling, nondiscrimination measures pertaining to a broad spectrum of bullying, workplace violence and various forms of discrimination that could potentially lead to mental health issues.
  • Policies must include specific accommodative measures available to affected staff, such as flexible leave arrangements, changes in working hours and support for returning to work. Absences for workers undergoing treatment and rehabilitation for mental health reasons would be covered by the employees’ paid leave entitlements (sick leave or otherwise) or statutory leave where appropriate (such as leave for domestic violence); otherwise such absences would be unpaid.
  • Employment discrimination is prohibited with regard to employees at risk of developing or found to have developed mental health issues, including protection from termination on the basis of mental health issues (and from preventing employees who have undergone successful treatment of mental health conditions from returning to work) unless a competent medical authority on mental health certifies that the condition poses a safety risk to the individual or others.

Employer implications

While these guidelines largely elaborate on existing regulations, the requirement to develop formal policies on mental health are the first tangible employer mandate in the area of equal treatment. Employers should review their internal policies and benefits in line with these new guidelines, particularly their existing provisions for mental health coverage under their company health insurance, and create a referral system for employees and their family members in need of counselling with a certified professional. While private health insurance is a nearly universal employee benefit, offered by 99% of companies surveyed by Willis Towers Watson, only 16% of hospitalization/inpatient care plans cover mental health services (e.g., psychiatric care, counseling, inpatient care). They are very rarely covered by employer plans on a clinical/outpatient basis. Wellness programs are almost as common (92% of companies) but don’t generally address mental health.

Contact

Raph Canillas

Soraya Manaloto

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