Willful disobedience

Dear Atty. Peachy,

I have been working in the accounting department of a pharmaceutical company for 10 years now. At the height of the pandemic in the year 2020, our company provided employees with work-from-home arrangements to protect their life and health and, at the same time, keep the company going. At that time, my wife was working as an IT specialist in Singapore. I took the opportunity to be with my wife while being employed by my company. I discussed with my immediate supervisor the possibility of working remotely in Singapore. After assessing that I will still be able to perform the duties and responsibilities attached to my position, albeit remotely, my company, through my immediate superior, approved my request.

For more than two years now, I have been performing my duties and responsibilities in the company while I stayed with my wife in Singapore. Two weeks ago, however, I received a letter from the human resources department of our company demanding that I report back to my workstation in the Philippines. According to the letter, this is something that is being required of all the employees of the company, allegedly because they believe that reporting for work will make the employees more connected to their work, their colleagues, and the company and, thus, will make them more productive.

I believe that I have been doing an excellent job at the company while I am in Singapore and that my work does not really require my physical presence in the office. I want to continue working in Singapore and stay with my wife. If I insist on staying in Singapore, does the company have legal cause to terminate my employment?



Dear Mateo,

The conditions of employment of an employee are generally set out in his employment contract, subject of course to our labor laws and other related laws. I am assuming that since you had to agree on a work-from-home arrangement with your company, your original contract with the company required you to report to the office during office hours. Your work-from-home arrangement with your company is a temporary arrangement which I assume has an expiration and is subject to certain conditions. You can continue with your work from home arrangement subject only to the period and conditions provided for in your work-from-home agreement with your company.

If the period of your work-from-home arrangement with your company has expired and/or the present situation no longer warrants such an arrangement in light of the conditions set forth therein, your company has the right to implement the work conditions in your employment contract. Thus, your company has the right to order you to report back to work if your employment contract requires you to report to the office during working hours. Your refusal to report back to work may constitute a willful disobedience of the lawful orders of your employer. Your failure to report to the office may constitute an absence without leave or abandonment. Provided there are sufficient grounds and the company complies with the due process requirements, your company may impose the appropriate disciplinary action, including termination of your services.

Atty. Peachy Selda-Gregorio

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