Personal attendance to wake ain’t required: Manila Pen loses SC case on grant bereavement leaves

The labor union of the Manila Peninsula Hotel secured a long-delayed victory against hotel management before the Supreme Court.

The high court sided with the Peninsula Employees Union (PEUN) regarding the disapproved bereavement leave requests of staff member Edgar Arevalo and Jefferson Rabaria despite an existing clause under the union’s collective bargaining agreement (CBA) in place from 2014-2016.

The two employees filed for bereavement leave, which were denied because they admitted that they will not be attending the wake of their deceased relatives during the leave period.

PEUN got a favorable ruling before a voluntary arbitrator in 2017 but had been overturned by the Court of Appeals in 2019. This prompted the case to reach the Supreme Court.

The high court took the arbitrator’s initial decision as valid and said that the two employees should have been allowed to go on paid bereavement leave even if they will not use the time to attend a wake.

“To be sure, the provisions of the CBA are clear and unambiguous. A plain reading of the CBA shows that the only requisites for the entitlement of an employee to bereavement leave are the following: (1) death of relatives listed under the above provision; (2) prior notice; (3) presentation of proof of relationship; and (4) death certificate,” the SC’s February 1, 2023 ruling read.

“Thus, for an employee to avail of the bereavement leave, he or she need not personally attend the wake or funeral of his or her deceased relative,” it added, pointing out that attendance is not specifically required under the CBA to avail of the leave benefits.

The Supreme Court said the hotel management cannot require an employee to personally attend the wake as part of availing the bereavement leave just because of an alleged “implicit understanding” between the employer and employees.

“The mere requirement of a Certificate of Attendance under MPH’s standard operating procedure does not evince an intent on the part of the union and the company; if anything, it is a rule imposed by the company on the union,” the tribunal ruled.