Single Entry Approach or SEnA refers to an administrative approach to provide a speedy, impartial, inexpensive and accessible settlement procedure of all labor issues or conflicts to prevent them from ripening into full blown disputes. Conciliation-mediation process is utilized as immediate intervention to effect amicable settlement among the differing parties.
Why avail the SEnA?
In the past, methods used to settle disputes have ranged from negotiation, to courtroom litigation, and even to physical struggle. That trend in our country has changed over the last decades primarily because employees and employers have realized that it is more advantageous to reach a practical and private agreement than to fight for years and spend huge amounts of money in legal battles.
SEnA uses conciliation and mediation as an alternative means in settling labor disputes, which is characterized as:
Speedy/expeditious – since it departs from the legal technicalities, delays caused by it are minimized. Besides, SEnA prescribes a 30-day mandatory conciliation-mediation service.
Private – the parties themselves determine the outcome. They are free to explore creative ways of resolving their differences, to address their needs and interests, and need not be confined to the strict legal definition of their dispute.
Non-confrontational – it enables parties to talk to each other and clarify issues that lead to greater willingness to explore different options. Encourages effective communication and allows the parties to save face.
Practical – with both parties working together to reach an agreement, they are more committed to abide by the outcome which they themselves decide. The result is likely to be more satisfactory than one imposed by a cold and distant judge.
Economical – settlements are typically at no cost than in litigation since it is (1) facilitative; (2) uses the most effective, fastest and economic means of communication; (3) lawyers are not required to represent a party; and, (4) the process takes much less time.
How do you request for assistance?
Any aggrieved worker, union, group of workers, or employer, may ask assistance at the nearest or the most convenient DOLE (or its attached agencies e.g. NCMB) office through its Single Entry Approach Desk (SEAD).
The requesting party will be interviewed by the SEAD Officer (SEADO) on duty for evaluation purposes.
After the interview, the requesting party may accomplish the Request for Assistance (RFA) Form for formal docketing and the SEADO assigned to handle the RFA will immediately schedule the initial conference.
For RFAs sent through mail or email, the personal appearance of the requesting party will be required for interview and evaluation purposes.
In case of anonymous complaint or RFA, the SEADO will verify the same by requesting an interview with the responding party to facilitate compliance or correction if there are violations. Refusal or failure to appear on the scheduled interview would automatically result to the conduct of inspection in the establishment.
How many times do conciliation-mediation conferences be scheduled?
The conferences may be held as many times as the SEADO deems fit within the 30-day mandatory conciliation-mediation period to facilitate a settlement agreement.
Resetting may be allowed on meritorious grounds and only if the other party agrees to the resetting.
The 30-day mandatory period may be extended for only a maximum of seven (7) days when the parties mutually agree to such extension.
What should you do when you are invited for a conciliation-mediation conference?
The parties invited should personally appear at all times.
Lawyers may be allowed to join the conference but only to render advice to their clients.
Reminder: Non-appearance of the requesting party in two (2) consecutive scheduled conferences despite due notice may: (a) cause the pre-termination of the proceedings; or, (b) cause the referral by the SEADO to appropriate DOLE office or Agency.
Reminder: Non-appearance of the responding party in two (2) consecutive scheduled conferences despite due notice may: (a) cause the pre-termination of the proceedings; and, (b) be referred by the SEADO to appropriate DOLE office or Agency.
For responding parties based outside of Region 8, the Branch gives them the option to settle with the requesting party through telephone conversation without need of personally appearing before the Branch, and if a settlement agreement has been reached, the necessary documentation will be facilitated through fax or email.
What happens if the parties agree to a settlement?
The SEADO will reduce the agreement into writing. Where the agreement involves monetary claims, the SEADO shall endeavor to facilitate the settlement in full and shall attach a duly accomplished waiver and quitclaim as proof of full compliance.
Any settlement agreement reached by the parties before the SEADO shall be final and binding.
Where the parties entered into a compromise of monetary claims arising from violations of labor standards laws, the amount of the compromise shall be fair and reasonable, and not contrary to law, public morals and public policy.
The SEADO shall monitor the voluntary and faithful compliance with the settlement agreement.
In case of “settlement for a show” or where the settlement amount is reported to have been retrieved or confiscated by the responding party, both parties shall be summoned and should there be a prima facie proof that the settlement was for a show, the responding party will be required to pay the requesting party the full settlement amount with legal interest reckoned from the date of the settlement.
In case of non-compliance by the responding party, the requesting party has the option to disregard the settlement agreement and file the appropriate case before the proper forum, or enforce the terms of the agreement by requesting the SEADO to issue a referral to the proper Regional Arbitration Branch of the NLRC.