Cancer is one of the leading causes of death in the Philippines. To help combat the disease, Congress enacted Republic Act 11215, or the National Integrated Cancer Control Act, which was signed into law by former President Rodrigo Duterte on 14 February 2019. The law fundamentally aims to promote a comprehensive and concerted cancer control program that is targeted at preventing cancer and improving cancer survivorship.
Towards this end, the Department of Labor and Employment, or DOLE, has been mandated to develop policies and provide guidance to employers and employees in relation to cancer prevention, diagnosis, management, and treatment in the workplace.
Pursuant to this mandate, on 15 September 2023, DOLE issued Labor Advisory No. 20 entitled “Guidelines on the Implementation of the Workplace Policy and Program on Cancer Prevention and Control in the Private Sector.”
In essence, the DOLE advisory requires employers and their employees in the private sector to adopt a Cancer Prevention and Control in the Workplace Policy and Program (workplace CPCPP) that shall include, among others, the following components: prevention, access to screening, diagnosis, and treatment, return to work, compensation, and social policies.
The workplace CPCPP shall, among others, promote a safe and healthy lifestyle and provide for the conduct of awareness campaigns on cancer, including health education and information to employees on self-breast examination, the ill effects of smoking and excessive alcohol drinking, signs and symptoms, and prevention of different forms of cancers.
Further, private firms are directed to implement appropriate control measures such as engineering, administrative, and personal protective equipment to avoid employees’ exposure to cancer-causing chemicals, work processes, and working conditions in the workplace.
Facilitation and timely referral mechanisms for screening, diagnosis, and treatment and the implementation of processes to assist return to work and re-integration into the workplace of employees diagnosed with cancer shall also be in place.
In addition, the workplace CPCPP shall cover measures to prevent stigma and discrimination against employees with cancer. Relevantly, the Implementing Rules and Regulations of RA 11215 provides that an employer or persons acting on behalf of an employer shall not discriminate against a cancer patient, person living with cancer or a cancer survivor and the immediate family members of a cancer patient, person living with cancer or a cancer survivor: (1) in the hiring process; (2) in the terms and conditions of employment; (3) in limiting or denying opportunities for promotion, transfer, training or access to any benefits associated with employment; and (4) in firing or dismissal and subjecting the employee to any other detriment or undue disadvantage due to their having cancer. [Rule VII, Section 27 (b)]
Employers and their employees shall have a shared responsibility to ensure the effective implementation of the workplace CPCPP.
Employers are likewise encouraged to provide reasonable work accommodations and arrangements for employees with cancer. For instance, the subject employees may be granted paid leave benefits on top of existing ones under the company policy, collective bargaining agreement, the Labor Code of the Philippines, and special laws. Employers may also implement flexible work arrangements, re-scheduling work hours, and telecommuting.
As reminded by the aforementioned Labor Advisory, employees diagnosed with cancer may apply for a person with a disability identification card from the local government unit where their residence is located to avail of the benefits of PWDs.
Employers must submit to the DOLE Regional/Provincial/Field Office, which has jurisdiction over the workplace, the Annual Medical Report Form indicating, among other things, the number of cancer-related activities and programs implemented in the workplace.
Employers must ensure the confidentiality of the health status of the employees concerned. Their medical records shall be handled in accordance with the Data Privacy Act of 2012 (RA 10173) to prevent unauthorized access, accidental or unlawful destruction, alteration, disclosure, and any other unlawful processing.