Maternity leave bill awaits signing into law

THE Senate and House of Representatives have ratified the Expanded Maternity Leave bill and it now awaits the signature of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Working mothers, both in government and private, are entitled to a total of 105 days of paid maternity leave under the proposed Expanded Maternity Leave Act of 2018.

Authors from the House including Surigao del Norte Rep. Ace Barbers, Quezon City Rep. Alfred Vargas and Bagong Henerasyon Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy welcomed the ratification and joined other solons in urging President Rodrigo Duterte to sign the law immediately.

Vargas, whose wife is pregnant with their third baby, said this bill is also beneficial to the fathers since  seven out of the 105 days of leave may be transferred to fathers, extending the latter’s paid paternity leave to 14 days.

Meanwhile, solo working mothers would also get an additional 15 days of leave under the bill for a total of 120 days of paid maternity leave.

The bill would also allow mothers to extend their leaves for another 30 days, but these would be unpaid.

Vargas said the main purpose of the measure is to allow every mother to have more time to take care of her newly-born child and herself.

Citing various studies of the DoH and World Health Organization (WHO),  Vargas said,  the Philippines had a lifetime risk of maternal death of 1 in every 140 mother.

“We recognize and appreciate the sacrifices of women in giving birth, and therefore as a way of saying thank you, let’s give them more essential time to rest with proper heath care,” he added.

Vargas also noted that recent studies show that extending paid maternity leave for new mothers reduces infant mortality. The cause is yet to be known but it may be linked to longer periods of breast feedings and better health care.

Barbers added that this bill is a vital piece of legislation as it will provide working mothers with ample time to recover from giving birth and care for their newborns.

Likewise he said the bill finally recognized the importance of involving fathers in nurturing activities early in their children’s lives.

“The Constitution is explicit in saying that the State shall protect working women by providing safe and healthful working conditions, considering their maternal functions. Again, this bill will surely benefit not only the women but the entire nation as well, as it can make a huge difference in the economic well-being of Filipino families,” Barbers said.

For her part, Herrera-Dy appealed to employers to consider the welfare of their employees first because good corporate social responsibility must start at the workplaces.

“The direct cost impact of the 105-days of maternity leave is small. Of the 256,472 women who availed of SSS maternity benefits in 2016, only 18 percent of them exceed the P16,000 maximum salary credit claim.

SSS itself said the impact is only 0.3 percent contribution increase. And if SSS would improve its collection efficiency, which is currently at around 40% only, then there will be no more need for a premium hike,” the lady solon said.