Employers back grant of incentives for hiring PWDs
Richmond S. Mercurio (The Philippine Star) - April 17, 2017 - 6:47pm

MANILA, Philippines - Employers are backing measures that propose to give perks to firms that fill vacancies with qualified persons with disabilities (PWDs).

In a position paper submitted to Rep. Jose Antonio Sy-Alvarado, chairman of the House Committee on Social Services, the Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) said it supports the grant of incentives such as tax deductions to employers that hire PWDs rather than imposing penalties to those that fail to employ up to two percent of the number of new job vacancies.

ECOP said the imposition of requirement on private companies violates the exercise of management prerogative under the Constitution.

“Labor laws do not authorize interference with the employer’s judgment in the conduct of its business and is free to determine, using its discretion and business judgment, all elements of employment ‘from hiring to firing’ except in cases of unlawful discrimination or those which may be provided law,” ECOP acting president Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr. said in the position paper.

ECOP said imposing quotas would not only make doing business in the Philippines more difficult, but would also be “a disincentive to investment and business expansion.”

“In the context of the Philippine labor market where only 16 percent of the total employed can be absorbed in the formal sector, it is the harsh reality that no matter how a qualified disabled person is for a position, he has to compete with hundreds if not thousands of able-bodied applicants in the tight formal labor market” the group said.

“We believe that the better approach would be to encourage private firms that employ qualified disabled persons with appropriate tax and other incentives similar to those provided under House Bill No. 4865 without the requirement of compulsory employment,” ECOP added.

ECOP said three of four bills pending in the House of Representatives would fine companies or jail their officers and deport foreign executives for non-compliance with hiring quotas for PWDS.

HB 1916 and 2396 proposed that private corporations “engaged in social developments” must reserve five percent of vacancies for PWDs.

HB 5058, on the other hand, is seeking to encourage private companies to employ at least one percent of the total workforce of companies with more than 100 employees. Those with a workforce of less than 100 are encouraged to have at least one PWD in their payroll.

Meanwhile, HB 4865 proposed to require private companies with a workforce of between 100 and 1,000 to reserve at least one percent of all vacant positions for PWDs and those with more than 1,000 to reserve at least two percent.

Under this bill, private firms that employ PWDs as apprentices or learners would be entitled to an additional deduction from their gross income of 25 percent of the total amount paid as salaries and wages to disabled persons.

Those companies that include PWDs as regular workers would be entitled additional deduction from income the equivalent of 50 percent of the total amount paid as salaries and wages to PWDs.

In addition, those that improve or modify physical facilities to provide reasonable accommodation for PWDs would be entitled to an additional deduction from their net taxable income 50 percent of direct costs of the improvements or modifications.

All four bills, which would amend the Magna Carta of PWDs, aim to promote access to equal employment opportunities for PWDs.

“While the requirement will not have direct and immediate impact on existing corporations whose positions are filled up, the brunt will be on newly-established corporations and those intending to expand their business,” ECOP said.

“Nevertheless, the issue that arises is, in the event a position or number of positions become vacant,  should the corporation reserve such vacancies until disabled persons qualify, no matter how urgent the need to fill up the vacancies?” the group added.

The umbrella organization of employers pointed out that there are specific sectors where such requirement would be either difficult or impossible to implement.

ECOP said a business process outsourcing (BPO) company with 30,000 operators, for example, would be required to reserve at least 300 positions for PWDs.

“Considering the nature of skills required by BPOs, it is a certainty that most of these reserved positions will remain unfilled over time,” the group said.

Manufacturing and construction sectors were also cited as examples by the group, saying that most positions in these industries would require performance of “a high degree of physical dexterity and mobility in the operations of their machinery and equipment.”

“Finding disabled persons with the appropriate skills and physical attributes suitable for such operations would not only be difficult but also undesirable in view  of the hazards associated with the operation of machinery,” it said.

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