19 January 2022 - The Civil Service Commission (CSC) amended the interim guidelines on the use of leave credits for absences due to COVID-19 quarantine and/or treatment.

In CSC Resolution No. 2101122 dated 31 December 2021, circularized through CSC Memorandum Circular No. 2, s. 2022 dated 18 January 2022, absence from work for every instance of the required quarantine period, isolation, and/or treatment for government workers who are “infected or identified as close contacts of a suspect, probable, and/or confirmed cases of COVID-19 while in the performance of their official functions, (onsite or WFH arrangement)” shall be considered as excused absence. They may be required to adopt a work-from-home arrangement depending on the nature of their work pursuant to the guidelines on alternative work arrangements contained in CSC M.C. No. 18, s. 2020.

Previously, this provision only applied to public health workers or PHWs.

The CSC says there is a need to consider the predicament of government workers aside from PHWs who are repeatedly exposed to COVID-19 in performing their official duties due to face-to-face interaction with clients and co-workers, or due to community transmission.

Excused absences

Excused absence refers to the period when a government worker is not required to report for work due to required quarantine period, isolation, and/or treatment, and/or announcement of work suspension, but are entitled to pay.

The required quarantine period refers to the prevailing number of days required for a person to undergo quarantine, or separation and restriction of movement while waiting for swab tests results or if the person will become sick. The isolation period, on the other hand, refers to the separation of a person who is sick with a contagious disease for purposes of treatment and monitoring.

Absences incurred from undergoing the required quarantine period, isolation, and/or treatment after official travel from countries with or without localized COVID-19 transmissions or from local areas under community quarantine are considered excused absences. For personal travel, only the required quarantine period may be excused, while the isolation and/or treatment period shall be charged against leave credits.

Absence from work for every instance of the required quarantine period for government workers who are “infected or identified as close contacts of a suspect, probable, and/or confirmed cases of COVID-19 due to personal activities” shall also be considered as excused absence. In both categories, the employees may also be required to adopt a work-from-home arrangement while they are awaiting swab test results or completing the required quarantine period. However, in the event that they become sick, the period of their isolation and/or treatment shall be considered sick leave and charged against their leave credits.

Charge to leave credits

Absences incurred from undergoing the required quarantine period, isolation, and/or treatment after personal international travel without approved travel authority before or after the declaration of a state of public health emergency due to COVID-19 shall be charged against leave credits.

Absences incurred from undergoing the required quarantine period, isolation, and/or treatment due to personal activities in violation of the Inter-Agency Task Force for Emerging and Infectious Diseases’ protocols, shall also be charged against leave credits.

Per the Omnibus Rules on Leave, in the event when employees have exhausted their sick leave credits, the vacation leave credits shall be used instead. If the vacation leave credits are also exhausted, the employees may apply for sick leave of absence without pay.

Return to work

Employees returning to work should submit to their human resource management office or officer (HRMO) their application for leave, and applicable documents such as:

- certificate issued by government or private physician that the employee has submitted himself or herself for monitoring;
- certificate of completion of quarantine issued by the local quarantine or health official;
- medical certificate clearing the employee to report back to work and medical records showing COVID-19 treatment;
- copy of RT-PCR result for those infected or identified as close contacts of a suspect, probable, and/or confirmed cases of COVID-19 during performance of their official functions;
- copy of barangay contact tracing form for those infected or identified as close contacts of a suspect, probable, and/or confirmed cases of COVID-19 due to personal activities; and
- applicable travel documents such as travel authority, office order, certificate of appearance, laboratory test results, waiver, depending on whether the travel was local or international.

Responsibility of head of agency and HR

It is the responsibility of office heads to ensure that efficiency and productivity work standards are met, and that delivery of public service is not prejudiced during the required quarantine, isolation, and/or treatment of concerned officials and employees.

The agency heads through the HRMOs shall monitor the implementation of the use of leave credits for absences due to quarantine, isolation, and/or treatment relative to COVID-19 based on the guidelines.