Congress approves HB 8817 to protect freelance workers

·3 min read

AN INDUSTRY leader welcomes the approval of the proposed Freelance Workers Protection Act in Congress, saying this is an initial step in representing the growing number of freelance workers.

“It’s good news for those people who are engaged in freelance work. This will serve as a unified protection for them. This is also a welcome development because the freelancers in the Philippines have longed for representation and protection for so many years now. This is great news for everyone,” said entrepreneur Michael Cubos, who is also Cebu Business Month 2021 chairman.

The Freelance Workers Protection Bill or House Bill 8817 was approved on third reading in the House of Representatives on Thursday, March 25, 2021.

According to Pangasinan 4th District Rep. Christopher de Venecia, one of the principal authors, the bill seeks to introduce numerous key provisions for the protection of freelancers, including those making written contracts mandatory when procuring their services as it also provides night shift differential and hazard pay.

Freelance workers are said to make up two percent of the country’s population.

But while it is welcome news for the industry, Cubos, who also owns a business process management firm, said House Bill 8817 is “still very vague and broad.”

He stressed that the bill needs a clear-cut definition of what a freelancer is.

“How does this differentiate with the provisions and benefits of independent contractors or those engaged in project-based workers?” said Cubos.

Moreover, Cubos pointed out that there is one big component missing in this bill—that is the protection for online freelancers.

He said they need to be protected too as there are a lot of online freelancers in the country.

Citing a survey, the CBM official said the total registered Filipinos working in Upwork and Freelancer platforms has reached almost two million.

“And these are just two platforms. There are a lot of platforms out there,” he said.

Cubos said they need protection because majority of their clients are not from the Philippines.

“It is not provided in the bill how the government will help these online freelancers, whose majority of hiring party or clients are based abroad,” said Cubos.

Under the bill, the execution of a written contract between a freelancer and the hiring party is required, making the enforcement of freelancers’ rights easier and more accessible.

The proposed measure also states that freelance workers who are assigned to be present physically in the workplace or those in field assignments shall be paid a night differential of not less than 10 percent of one’s regular compensation for each hour of work performed between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.

Meanwhile, the taxation provision of the measure states that all freelancers shall register with the Bureau of Internal Revenue and shall pay their income taxes annually.

Complaints about any violation of its provisions may be filed with the Department of Labor and Employment through the Undersecretary for Workers with Special Concerns. Violators of the Act shall be liable to pay a civil penalty ranging from P50,000 to P500,000.

In the past, the Department of Information and Communications Technology inked partnerships with the local government unit to conduct skills training to provide opportunities among Filipino talents and freelancers to boost opportunities for high-value online jobs in rural areas in the country. (KOC)