BPO employees insist on feasibility of 100% work-from-home arrangements

CALL CENTER workers said 100% work-from-home (WFH) arrangements are workable following a government ruling setting limits on hybrid work in the Information Technology and Business Process Management (IT-BPM), insisting that companies should be allowed to adopt flexible work arrangements for safety reasons.

“We assert that a 100% permanent WFH not only has a legal basis but a moral one, due to the increasing number of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases,” Alliance of Call Center Workers Co-Convenor Emman D. David said in a mobile phone message.

The IT-BPM industry, also known as the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector, is required by tax law to conduct 100% of its work within the premises of economic zones if it is to enjoy tax incentives, though this rule was relaxed during the pandemic.

The Fiscal Incentives Review Board (FIRB) issued Resolution No. 017-22, dated June 21, temporarily authorizing registered IT-BPM firms to operate on a 70% onsite and 30% WFH (70:30) basis until Sept. 12 without affecting their fiscal incentives, which are governed by Republic Act No. 11534 or the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE) law.

“As a temporary measure under Rule 23 of the CREATE Act implementing rules and regulations, registered business enterprises (RBEs) of the IT-BPM sector may be allowed by their respective investment promotion agencies to continue implementing WFH arrangements without adversely affecting their fiscal incentives under the CREATE Act from April 1, 2022 until Sept. 12, 2022 only,” according to the resolution.

At the height of the pandemic, the FIRB issued Resolution No. 19-21, which had allowed registered IT-BPM firms to offer 90% WFH and 10% onsite (90:10) work arrangements while still enjoying tax incentives. This resolution expired on April 1.

“Restoring the previous 90% work-from-home setup beyond Sept. 12 would also mitigate the impact of high inflation and ease the burden carried by our public transport system. We are reaching out to pertinent government agencies regarding this and we hope they can grant us a dialogue,” Mr. David said.

In a separate statement, PEZA Officer-in-Charge Director General Tereso O. Panga said that the agency will continue to partner with the industry to make hybrid work arrangements more permanent.  

“Rest assured that we will continue to work with our respective stakeholders and partner agencies to come up with a win-win strategy that will institutionalize the implementation of hybrid work arrangements as we promote a competitive investment climate in support of our economic zone investors and the continued revival of the economy,” Mr. Panga said. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave