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What are the Rights of a Contractual Employee in the Philippines?

You’ve finally gotten your first job offer. Congratulations! If you nabbed a good one, better. The potential downside? The position is contractual. Not to worry though, a contractual job offer isn’t something that should totally discourage you from accepting a position.

Contractual jobs carry some stigma since people often think that there isn’t any promise of long-term job security and that these positions don’t offer benefits. There are also instances where loopholes in the Philippine legal system are abused at the expense of their contractual employees’ welfare.

But not all companies are like this. Many contractual jobs can lead to permanent positions if the employee has displayed good work performance. More importantly, contractual jobs should carry the same benefits and terms of employment as permanent positions. Let us say that again - contractual jobs should carry the same benefits and terms of employment as permanent positions.

The Philippine government has taken steps to ensure that contractual employees are as protected by law as permanent employees. In 2011, the Department of Labor and Employment issued Department Order 18-A, Series of 2011, which lists the rights (Section 8) that contractual employees are entitled to, as well as the guidelines for the terms of their contracts.

So what are the rights of a contractual employee? Here goes:

1. Safe and healthful working conditions

Whether your position is a desk job or it entails a lot of physical labor, your employer should ensure that your health isn’t compromised at work. Your employer should take steps to safeguard your health and well-being while on the job.

2. Service incentive leave, rest days, overtime pay, holiday pay, 13th month pay, and separation pay

Aside from your wage or salary, you should also be given paid time off, as well as additional pay for any work done beyond your contract’s work hours, 13^th^ month pay and a separation pay if your employment is terminated early.

3. Retirement benefits under the SSS or retirement plans of the contractor, if there is any

If your employer has a retirement plan for their permanent employees, you should also be granted the same benefit.

4. Social security and welfare benefits

Your employer must also grant you SSS, PhilHealth, and Pag-Ibig benefits, just like any other permanent employee.

5. Self-organization, collective bargaining and peaceful concerted action

Contractual employees may also join or form employee unions, collective bargaining agreements, and join peaceful demonstrations or protests. Your employment shouldn’t be in jeopardy should you decide to join a union.

6. Security of tenure

You should be ensured secure employment for the duration stated on your employment contract, unless your employer has a defensible reason for early termination (such as your inability to perform tasks specified in contract) and has terminated you under due process.

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Your job contract is an official legal agreement between you and your employer, ensuring that both parties will do their best to adhere to the terms. Performing well at work is how you make sure you stick to the contract, while your company’s job is to grant you your rightful compensation and humane treatment.

If you're a contractual employee, you should also ensure that your employment contract includes the following terms and conditions:

1. The specific description of the job, work or service to be performed by the employee

Ensure that your actual work done matches the description in your employment contract.

2. The place of work and terms and conditions of employment, including a statement of the wage rate applicable to the individual employee

Your contract should specify where you should work and the specific terms and conditions of your employment (e.g. Is your contract renewable? Is there a confidentiality agreement or a non-competition clause?)

3. The term or duration of employment, which shall be coextensive with the contract of the principal and subcontractor, or with the specific phase for which the contractual employee is engaged, as the case may be.

The length of your employment should coincide with the time span of the project or contract that you were hired for and should be specified in your job contract.

4. The contractor or subcontractor shall inform the contractual employee of the foregoing terms and conditions on or before the first day of his employment.

Before you even begin working for your employer, they should go through the terms and conditions of your employment. Make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into before you start working.

A contractual position can sound like a risky job to accept. And it’s true; it can be a bit of a gamble, but don’t let that be the only deciding factor in accepting or rejecting the position. If you do decide to accept the job offer, guarantee that your future employer will take the required steps to ensure the protection of your rights as a contractual employee. Knowing what you’re getting yourself into and being aware of your legal rights will give you the preparation you didn’t know you needed on your first day at work.

*Please note that while this article aims to give its readers an overview of the rights of a contractual employee, it doesn't replace legal counsel. For case-specific concerns or further help, please consult a lawyer or the Department of Labor and Employment.