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Boss’s order not absolute amid COVID

The City Legal Office has cleared the concerns of workers who are asked by employers to travel outside for work-related assignments during the general community quarantine (GCQ).

The legal opinion issued on June 1 stated that employers must restrict non-essential and even work-related travel for their employees.

“The instant situation is peculiar in the most employers, during this time of quarantine, are inclined to adopt the policy of restricting employees from non-essential or even work-related travels for fear of or in order to avoid the possibility of a returning employee bringing the Covid-19 disease back into the workplace and cause infection to co-workers,” it read.

However, if an employment contract or the nature of work requires the employee to travel, and the work cannot be accomplished via electronic communication or other alternative work arrangements, the employee cannot refuse the employer’s travel to order as this would end up breaching his contract or committing an act of willful disobedience.

The legal opinion also clarified that employees who are 60 years old or with co-morbidities or pre-existing illness such as hypertension, diabetes, cancer, with immunocompromised health status, or with a high-risk pregnancy, the employee can refuse to comply to the travel order as this would be contrary to the labor guidelines on Labor Code by putting them at higher risk of the coronavirus.

“Finally, even assuming that an employer can legally force an employee to travel for business despite the employees’ protests do to the fear of the coronavirus, the employer probably shouldn’t do it as this may create anger and resentment in the employee, and it will be bad for the employee morale overall,” it further states.

The City Legal Office issued the opinion after an employee asked about the validity of an order issued by the employer to travel outside Davao City during GCQ.

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