UPDATE: The POLO offices are no longer operating under the same name. Since the launch of the new Philippine agency – Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) – the POLO offices have been renamed to Migrant Workers Offices (MWO).
The Philippine Overseas Labor Office or POLO is one of the special departments under the Philippine Government office that acts as the operating office of the Department of Labor and Employment or DOLE in another country. It administers and enforces DOLE’s policy, guidelines, and initiatives that may affect all Filipino workers abroad.
POLO was built to provide help to Overseas Filipino Workers with their rights and needs from employment, verifying documents, and supporting regulation and protection of the workers. It cooperates with the host government, Filipino communities, and non-governmental organizations or NGOs. Currently, there are 34 POLOs around the world with 11 offices in Asia, 13 in the Middle East, 7 in Europe, and 3 in America.
What are POLO’s responsibilities?
The POLO’s mission is “To serve and protect the rights and welfare of Overseas Filipino Workers” with the help of their host country and Filipino communities, and other NGOs. It acts in accordance to the principle and provisions of the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995 as amended by RA 10022. With POLO, we can be assured that our kababayans are safe and healthy. It is also responsible to:
- Lawfully enforced the policies and programs in line with international labor relations and settings.
- Ensure that the documents – contracts and other employers-related papers – are lawful and appropriate for their regions of assignment.
- Help administer the government’s foreign exchange program for Filipino workers and their families.
- Mediate to employee-employer relationship problems of OFWs.
- Keep track and inform OFWs of any situation and policy development that may affect the Philippine labor policy and Filipino migrant workers in their host country.
- Promote friendly relationships and goodwill between the Philippines and the host country as well as the Filipino workers and management.
- Give regular reports and updates directly to the Secretary of Labor’s office.
POLO also has jurisdiction over serious matters:
- Human Trafficking
- Medical and hospital assistance
- Non-payment or underpayment of salaries
- Rules violations under the POEA
- Workers’ repatriation
What are the benefits of POLO?
POLO ensures not only the safety and welfare of the OFWs but also provides social benefits, education scholarship and training benefits, welfare programs, reintegration programs, and repatriation assistance benefits. Some OFW families can have compulsory insurance, free training programs, Pag-IBIG, and financial assistance.
Here is the list of programs and services the OFWs can enjoy:
- Community Networking.
- DOLE/OWWA Microsoft Tulay Project. This program is run by a group of Filipino volunteers who give computer-related classes to other OFWs. These volunteers follow the POLO’s guidelines and offer courses like computer fundamentals, hardware assembly and maintenance, and digital imaging.
- POLO’s Overseas Labor Education Program (OLEP). This program informs OFWs about their rights and responsibilities under the country’s labor law and other laws that may affect them.
- POLO’s Reintegration Preparedness Program. This program supports the effort of FILCOM organizations to plan and prepare for reintegration.
- Livelihood Training Classes. Other Filipino volunteer groups also conduct classes like cosmetology, meat processing, rudimentary baking, candle making, soy sauce, fish sauce, and vinegar processing.
- Community Outreach. This program aims to enhance the collaborations between the Philippine government, Overseas Filipino Workers, governments of the host countries, and NGOs. This program raises knowledge about policies relating to the protection, welfare, and interest of Filipino workers.
- Leaders’ Forum
- Socio-Cultural Activities
- Institutional Events
- Custodial Program. The Migrant Workers and Other Filipino Resource Center (MWOFRC), which works under POLO, is a program that gives temporary shelter to Filipino female workers who were subjected to abuse by their employers or co-workers. It serves as a transitional housing facility where workers can start rebuilding their lives and move on from their bad experiences.
- Employment Promotion. This program ensures that all employment-related documents are legal, verified, and meet the POEA’s terms and standards. These documents must be checked by Labor Attaché or any of their authorized agent before submitting to Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) for processing and registration according to its requirements.
- Financial Assistance Programs. All OFWs who are a member of the Fund is eligible for benefit programs that are available to Pag-IBIG members. The Fund allows qualified members to loan 60% to 80% of their entire savings based on the number of remitted contributions to Pag-IBIG. They give short-term loans to all members for various purposes such as tuition payments, hospital expenses, appliance purchases, modest house repairs, and small business capital.
- OEC Issuance (Overseas Employment Certificate). All Filipino workers who are on vacation or worker-on-leave and want to return to the same employer need to get an Overseas Employment Certificate or OEC valid for 60 days. They can get it from POLO office abroad or POEA office in the Philippines.
- Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) membership. OWWA members are insured for a maximum of two years upon payment of the membership fee.
- Reintegration Preparedness. This program ensures that OFWs can work or build their own business once they decide to go back to the Philippines. It provides the following trainings and counseling:
- Development Training
- Business Counseling
- Skills Training
- Value Formation
- Workers’ Information and Education
- Post-arrival Orientation Seminar
- Labor Education
- Immigration Laws and Procedures
- Workers Protection
- Counseling. OFWs can call or visit POLO if they have employment-related questions.
- Mediation/Conciliation. OFWs can file a complaint against their employer to the Labor Office. POLO follows a series of steps to ensure that both sides are heard. First, POLO gives counseling to the OFWs regarding their options. Next, they will call the employers to let them know about the employer’s complaint. Then they will write to the employer asking them to respond to the complaint. After that, they will visit the employer to discuss the complaint and work out a solution that will benefit both the employee and the employer.
- Repatriation Assistance. POLO helps Filipino workers who wanted and needed to go back to the Philippines. They negotiate with their employers, police, and immigration authorities. They can also provide plane tickets and several other services to OFWs.
- Request for Assistance. POLO’s core responsibility is to ensure the welfare of Filipino workers. Non-payment /delayed payment of salary, mistreatment, sexual harassment, bad working/living situation, and non-issuance of residence permission or exit visa are just a few cases that POLO handles.
- Shelter Provision. This program allows Household Service Workers (HSWs) to stay and provide shelter for them.
Video: POLO OWWA Webinar – 7 August 2020
Here’s a free webinar where you can learn programs and services of POLO and OWWA for TFWs or Filipino Temporary Foreign Workers.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What is Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO)?
The Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) is the international arm of the Department of Labor and Employment. Its core responsibility is to implement policies and programs to help Overseas Filipino Workers.
- How do I submit documentary requirements?
OFWs can submit their requirements in the office personally or via postal mail. Check the mailing address of POLO in your host country to make sure you have the right address.
- How long does the verification procedure take?
It may take five (5) or ten (10) working days depending on the volume of the documents that the office receives.
- What type of signature on submitted documents are acceptable?
POLO does not accept applications with electronic signatures or scanned signatures. All signatures must be inked pen and originally affixed on the documents.
- What is the difference between POLO and OWWA?
POLO’s main job is to implement labor policy and acts as DOLE’s “overseas operating arm” abroad. While OWWA focuses on social benefits and programs for OFWs.
- Is it possible for me to apply for multiple POLO programs and services?
As long as you are qualified and the requirements aren’t limited to a single service or program, you can apply for multiple POLO programs and services.
- How does POLO help OFWs?
POLO offers different programs and services to Filipino workers depending on their needs. It makes sure that employers follow the labor law and that the OFWs’ rights and well-being are protected.
- What are the benefits of POLO?
POLO ensures that OFWs’ well-being is protected by giving them social benefits, education scholarships and training benefits, welfare programs, reintegration programs, and repatriation assistance benefits. It also mediates any employer-employee conflict and helps OFWs who suffer from a bad experience with their employers.
- How to apply for Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC) from POLO?
OFWs need to secure an appointment slip given by the host country’s Philippine Embassy or Consulate before going to the POLO office to get the Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC).
The Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) is the extended arm of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to reach all Filipino workers abroad. Its job is to implement policies and labor laws for the benefit of all Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs).
POLO, who is led by a Labor Attaché, reports directly to the Secretary of Labor’s office. The POLO office consists of Assistant Labor Attachment, Welfare Officer, Administrative Assistants, Staff Workers, and locally hired staff.
POLO provides legal consultation, social benefits, education scholarships and training benefits, welfare programs, reintegration programs, and repatriation assistance benefits.