Field personnel (Labor)

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According to Article 82 of the Labor Code, field personnel shall refer to non-agricultural employees who regularly perform their duties away from the principal place of business or branch office of the employer and whose actual hours of work in the field cannot be determined with reasonable certainty.[1] The requirement that actual hours of work in the field cannot be determined with reasonable certainty must be read in conjunction with the Implementing Rules[2] which provides [f]ield personnel and other employees whose time and performance is unsupervised by the employer. The Implementing Rules did not add another element to the Labor Code definition of field personnel. The clause whose time and performance is unsupervised by the employer did not amplify but merely interpreted and expounded the clause whose actual hours of work in the field cannot be determined with reasonable certainty. The former clause is still within the scope and purview of Article 82 which defines field personnel. Hence, in deciding whether or not an employee’s actual working hours in the field can be determined with reasonable certainty, query must be made as to whether or not such employee’s time and performance is constantly supervised by the employer.[3]

The definition of a field personnel is not merely concerned with the location where the employee regularly performs his duties but also with the fact that the employee’s performance is unsupervised by the employer. Field personnel are those who regularly perform their duties away from the principal place of business of the employer and whose actual hours of work in the field cannot be determined with reasonable certainty. Thus, in order to conclude whether an employee is a field employee, it is also necessary to ascertain if actual hours of work in the field can be determined with reasonable certainty by the employer. In so doing, an inquiry must be made as to whether or not the employee’s time and performance are constantly supervised by the employer.[4]


Illustrations

It is important to note that cases are decided based on the attendant facts. A bus driver, for instance, may or may not be a field personnel based on the circumstances of the actual case. The illustrations below must be considered in the light of the given facts.

  • Bus driver. It is of judicial notice that along the routes that are plied by these bus companies, there are its inspectors assigned at strategic places who board the bus and inspect the passengers, the punched tickets, and the conductor’s reports. There is also the mandatory once-a-week car barn or shop day, where the bus is regularly checked as to its mechanical, electrical, and hydraulic aspects, whether or not there are problems thereon as reported by the driver and/or conductor. They too, must be at specific place at a specified time, as they generally observe prompt departure and arrival from their point of origin to their point of destination. In each and every depot, there is always the Dispatcher whose function is precisely to see to it that the bus and its crew leave the premises at specific times and arrive at the estimated proper time. The driver was therefore under constant supervision while in the performance of this work. He cannot be considered a field personnel.[5]
  • Sales personnel. In one case, it is undisputed that the sales personnel start their field work at 8:00 a.m. after having reported to the office and come back to the office at 4:00 p.m. or 4:30 p.m. if they are Makati-based. The law requires that the actual hours of work in the field be reasonably ascertained. The company has no way of determining whether or not these sales personnel, even if they report to the office before 8:00 a.m. prior to field work and come back at 4:30 p.m., really spend the hours in between in actual field work.[6]
  • Fishermen. The employer company argued that since the work of a fisherman is performed away from its principal place of business, it has no way of verifying his actual hours of work on the vessel. However, the SC ruled that during the entire course of their fishing voyage, fishermen employed by petitioner have no choice but to remain on board its vessel. Although they perform non-agricultural work away from petitioner’s business offices, the fact remains that throughout the duration of their work they are under the effective control and supervision of petitioner through the vessel’s patron or master.[7]
  • Truck/trailer driver. The employee in one case was not a field personnel, as he was based at the principal office, with actual work hours (from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.) that were ascertainable with reasonable certainty. He averaged 21 trips per month. And if not driving for the company, he was paid P125.00 per day for cleaning and maintaining the company's equipment. [8]


Definition applied in other provisions of the Labor Code

The determination whether an employee is a field personnel is crucial because a field personnel is not legally entitled to certain benefits, including:

  • Service incentive leave. SIL does not apply to employees classified as field personnel and other employees whose performance is unsupervised by the employer including those who are engaged on task or contract basis, purely commission basis, or those who are paid in a fixed amount for performing work irrespective of the time consumed in the performance thereof. The phrase other employees whose performance is unsupervised by the employer serves as an amplification of the interpretation of the definition of field personnel under the Labor Code as those whose actual hours of work in the field cannot be determined with reasonable certainty.[9] The same is true with respect to the phrase those who are engaged on task or contract basis, purely commission basis. Said phrase should be related with field personnel. Hence, employees engaged on task or contract basis or paid on purely commission basis are not automatically exempted from the grant of service incentive leave, unless, they fall under the classification of field personnel.[10] See Service incentive leave.


References

  1. Auto Bus Transport Systems, Inc. vs. Bautista, G.R. No. 156367, 16 May 2005
  2. Sec. 1 (3) Rule IV, Book III
  3. Union of Filipro Employees (UFE) vs. Vicar, 205 SCRA 200 (1992), cited in Mercidar Fishing Corporation vs. NLRC, G.R. No. 112574, 8 October 1998
  4. Auto Bus Transport Systems, Inc. vs. Bautista, G.R. No. 156367, 16 May 2005
  5. Auto Bus Transport Systems, Inc. vs. Bautista, G.R. No. 156367, 16 May 2005
  6. Union of Filipro Employees (UFE) vs. Vicar, 205 SCRA 200 (1992), cited in Mercidar Fishing Corporation vs. NLRC, G.R. No. 112574, 8 October 1998
  7. Mercidar Fishing Corporation vs. NLRC, G.R. No. 112574, 8 October 1998
  8. Duterte vs. Kingswood Trading Co., Inc., G.R. No. 160325, 4 October 2007
  9. Auto Bus Transport Systems, Inc. vs. Bautista, G.R. No. 156367, 16 May 2005
  10. Auto Bus Transport Systems, Inc. vs. Bautista, G.R. No. 156367, 16 May 2005
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