Wednesday, June 19, 2024

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Understanding the legal perspectives in the new normal

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Whether you admit it or not, the COVID19 pandemic has brought uncertainties in the world, and even in our very own country. Many non-essential businesses are forced to close, and this would have a financial impact on the business, and a serious threat of possible job losses to the individual persons. As inevitable,  it is crucial for businesses to remain focused on fulfilling their obligations to both the clients and their employees. The question is how?

The DivinaLaw, one of the country’s premier and full-service law firm recently conducted a webinar titled, “Navigating the New Norm: Legal Perspective in time of Covid-19”.

During the webinar, there were so many questions surfaced and were answered especially on the issues on how the affected businesses have to deal with the stoppage of their operations during the lockdown.

Led by Atty. Nilo T. Divina, the managing partner of DivinaLaw, and also the dean of the UST Faculty of Civil Law. He discussed about “Managing Your Obligations on Force Majeure Defense.” Force Majeure refers to an event which could not be foreseen or, even though foreseen, was inevitable–or, in simple terms, a fortuitous event.

According to Divina, force majeure covers “acts of nature or natural occurrences such as floods, storms, cyclones, typhoons, epidemics or any other similar calamity brought about by natural forces or acts of man such as riots, wars, robbery, armed invasion, government regulations, and restrictions.”

Divina discussed the ways force majeure can be used as a defense in not being able to fulfill one’s obligations. However, he also clarified the ways how it cannot be used as a defense. According to him, as in all legal matters, there should be factors to consider when using force majeure as a defense in the inability to fulfill a contract.

Since the time of the lockdown, there have been several unique labor issues that came up, particularly since the situation is largely considered unprecedented in recent time. To help business owners and employees address these issues, Atty. Alden Francis C. Gonzales, DivinaLaw senior partner, talked about the labor implications of the COVID-19 outbreak and lockdown.

According to Gonzales, Labor Advisory No. 04-20 states that the only essential establishments that can operate are those manufacturing or providing necessities such as food, health services, medicine, water, banking and remittance, power, energy, and telecommunications; as well as those directed to provide precautionary, protective, and care measures in the workplace.

Gonzales also noted that although there have been companies that arranged leaves of absence (LOA) for employees during the ECQ period, others opted for a flexible work arrangement (FWA), which is already in the labor code since 2009, as an alternative arrangement to the traditional or standard work hours, workdays, and workweek.

“The rampant spread of COVID-19 and the government measures to combat its deleterious effects caused the suspension or strict regulation of business operations, manufacture of products, transportation, and delivery of goods and services,” Gonzales stressed. “Hence, most enterprises suffer serious business losses since not all businesses have enough resources to sustain themselves,” he added.

For his part, Atty. Enrique V. dela Cruz, Jr., DivinaLaw senior partner, gave a talk on “Privacy Issues in the Time of COVID-19.” In the talk, he discussed the pitfalls of video conferencing or virtual meetings, telecommuting 101 or Work from Home (WFH), and the guidelines for the disclosure of COVID+ employees.

Dela Cruz also talked about Telecommuting Act No. 11165, an alternative work arrangement for employees in the private sector and its Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR).

Moderated by DivinaLaw senior partner Atty. Estrella Elamparo, the webinar was the first in a series of online seminars that Divina Law aims to conduct, which will cover a variety of law-related topics.

“We hope that through this simple gesture, we are able to help not just our clients but the public as well with the help of our legal experts,” Divina stressed.

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