Republic Act No. 8188 (a law which has been in effect since 11 June 1996) increased the criminal penalty for violators of the minimum wage law and imposed double indemnity for the said violators vis-a-vis employees.
Under the double indemnity rule of the said act, employers who refuse or fail to pay the min. wage prescribed by law shall be required to pay an amount equal to "double the unpaid benefits owing to the employees." This is without prejudice to the criminal liability of the said employer under the said law.
While RA 8188 has been in effect since 1996, there have been some decisions rendered by Labor Arbiters which failed to apply the said law, either because this was not prayed for by the aggrieved party or thru inadvertence. Perhaps, one of the reasons why some decisions failed to adhere to this double indemnity rule is due to the uncertainty in its application - whether it should be awarded as a matter of course despite not being prayed for by the complainant or only when the employer fails to pay the balance after being ordered to do so.
This is now remedied by NLRC En Banc Resolution No. 01-19 dated 6 March 2019, which directed Labor Arbiters and even the NLRC to apply the Double Indemnity Rule by including the following provision in its decisions in the event the employer is found liable for underpayment of wages, thus -
"that the respondent/employer is given a period of five (5) days from receipt of the decision to pay the wage differential, otherwise double indemnity would be imposed during execution."
In the humble opinion of this writer, this provision is actually beneficial to employers, rather than employees, because it gives them a chance to avoid double indemnity even if the law already makes them liable for it (note that the law does not say anything about imposing double indemnity only if the employer refuses to pay after 5 days).
However, it may also be argued that this rule benefits employees since employers now have an incentive to immediately pay wage differentials and avoid the extra costs associated with refusal. The end result of this is that the employee concerned gets the wage differential needed, without having to wait for the employer to be ordered to do so during execution, which may take weeks or months to happen.
(Aaron Jarveen O. Ho is the Managing Partner of HG Law and specializes in Labor and Employment Law, as well as Litigation and Dispute Resolution Matters. For questions or concerns, Atty. Ho may be reached through his e-mail address at email@example.com)