Absences from work of government employees due to the imposition of community quarantine in light of the COVID-19 pandemic may be treated as excused absence or vacation or sick leave. This is based on the interim guidelines recently released by the Civil Service Commission (CSC).
CSC Resolution No. 2000953 or the Interim Guidelines on Absences of Government Officials and Employees During the Community Quarantine Due to COVID-19 Pandemic, promulgated on 9 November 2020 and circularized through CSC Memorandum Circular No. 23, s. 2020 dated 16 November 2020, recognizes that many government officials and employees were unable to report for work during the period of imposition of community quarantine due to the suspension of public transportation, lockdown conditions, and lack of agency support mechanisms.
The CSC considers this new policy a way of giving “a more considerate treatment of the absences incurred by officials and employees due to circumstances beyond their control”.
The interim guidelines list the conditions where an absence may be considered either as excused absence or as vacation or sick leave.
Absences during the imposition of community quarantine shall be considered as excused absence if they are due to any of the following circumstances:
• Being stranded abroad or locally while on official travel, or while on approved personal travel (vacation or sick leave), due to the suspension of all forms of transportation. In the case of personal travel, the employee must have proof of intention to report back to work, such as a plane/bus/boat ticket cancellation of travel and such other competent proof due to lockdown or localized declaration of Enhanced/Modified Enhanced/General Community Quarantine (ECQ/MECQ/GCQ). Moreover, the excused absence should cover only the period they are scheduled to report back to work and for the duration of the ECQ/MECQ/GCQ;
• Unable to report for work due to health risks, provided they are not qualified for work-from-home arrangement;
• Unable to report for work due to the imposition of lockdown declared by the President or a localized lockdown;
• Unable to report for work due to the suspension of public transportation, or the agency has not provided a service vehicle or shuttle for employees on skeleton workforce, subject to the internal guidelines adopted by the agency covering the allowed distance between residence and place of work; and
• Jobs/tasks of the employee cannot be performed through work-from-home arrangement and the agency has not assigned any other tasks.
On the other hand, absences shall be considered as vacation or sick leave, chargeable against the employee’s earned leave credits, if they are due to any of the following reasons:
• Failure to report for work after being stranded abroad or locally while on approved personal travel, and could not present proof of intention to report back to work;
• Failure to report for work after undergoing the required quarantine leave and/or required COVID-19 treatment leave (pursuant to CSC Memorandum Circular No. 8, s. 2020), except for certain conditions;
• Failure to report for work of those whose alternative work arrangement requires physical presence in the office and assigned as skeleton force, and support mechanisms like transportation or housing quarters are provided by the agency, except for certain conditions;
• Failure to make themselves available during work hours, such as not responding to calls or messages, without justifiable reason while they are at home in cases where no assignment is given.
If the employee’s request for vacation and/or sick leave was approved prior to the imposition of the community quarantine and took effect during the community quarantine, it shall still be considered as leave of absence unless a request for cancellation or deferment of leave is filed by the employee and approved by the authorized official.
Meanwhile, those who were on absence without approved leave (AWOL) prior to 16 March 2020 until the declaration of the community quarantine shall still be considered on AWOL for the period that they have not signified to report for work during the community quarantine.
Moreover, absences of employees who were stranded abroad with approved leave, but without a travel authority, shall be charged against their remaining vacation or sick leave credits, as the case may be.
If the absence falls under excused absence but was already deducted from the employee’s leave credits, said leave credits shall be restored accordingly.
These guidelines shall apply to all public sector officials and employees in all government agencies and instrumentalities, namely: Constitutional Bodies, Departments, Bureaus, and Agencies of the National Government, Government-Owned or Controlled Corporations (GOCCs) with original charters, Local Government Units (LGUs), and State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) regardless of status of appointment (permanent, temporary, provisional, substitute, coterminous, casual, contractual or fixed term), including local elective officials.
It shall take effect retroactively on 16 March 2020, the date of the President’s declaration placing the country under a State of Calamity and the imposition of ECQ throughout Luzon and other areas. It shall remain in force until the State of Public Health Emergency has been lifted by the President.