Principle of Non-Diminution of Benefits
In Ricardo E. Vergara, Jr. v. Coca-Cola Bottlers Philippines, Inc. (G.R. No. 176985, April 1, 2013), the Supreme Court held:
Generally, employees have a vested right over existing benefits voluntarily granted to them by their employer. Thus, any benefit and supplement being enjoyed by the employees cannot be reduced, diminished, discontinued or eliminated by the employer. The principle of non-diminution of benefits is actually founded on the Constitutional mandate to protect the rights of workers, to promote their welfare, and to afford them full protection. In turn, said mandate is the basis of Article 4 of the Labor Code which states that "all doubts in the implementation and interpretation of this Code, including its implementing rules and regulations, shall be rendered in favor of labor."
There is diminution of benefits when the following requisites are present: (1) the grant or benefit is founded on a policy or has ripened into a practice over a long period of time; (2) the practice is consistent and deliberate; (3) the practice is not due to error in the construction or application of a doubtful or difficult question of law; and (4) the diminution or discontinuance is done unilaterally by the employer.
To be considered as a regular company practice, the employee must prove by substantial evidence that the giving of the benefit is done over a long period of time, and that it has been made consistently and deliberately. Jurisprudence has not laid down any hard-and-fast rule as to the length of time that company practice should have been exercised in order to constitute voluntary employer practice. The common denominator in previously decided cases appears to be the regularity and deliberateness of the grant of benefits over a significant period of time. It requires an indubitable showing that the employer agreed to continue giving the benefit knowing fully well that the employees are not covered by any provision of the law or agreement requiring payment thereof. In sum, the benefit must be characterized by regularity, voluntary and deliberate intent of the employer to grant the benefit over a considerable period of time.
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