All business process outsourcing (BPO) firms in the country should allow at least four months of paid maternity leave to their employees who are working mothers, a lawmaker said on Sunday.
Rep. Mar-Len Abigail Binay of Makati City’s Second District made the pitch in a statement over a BPO firm’s move to increase the paid maternity leave benefits of working mothers.
“Now would be an excellent time for BPO firms to increase the paid maternity leave benefits of their working mothers, considering the tailwinds helping the industry,” said Binay, also House deputy majority leader, referring to the 10-percent decline of the Philippine peso against the US dollar since 2013.
She explained that BPO firms, which earn in US dollars and pay for their operations and workers’ wages in pesos, benefit highly from a weaker peso.
“BPO firms have gained steadily since the peso-dollar rate moved from 42:1 in 2013 to 44:1 in 2014, and then to 46.70:1 as of August 28,” her statement read.
A four-month paid maternity leave is double the minimum.
Under the law, the mandatory minimum paid maternity leave benefit is 60 days.
BPO firms have become the biggest employers in the private sector, according to Binay, the largest being Convergys Philippines Services Corp. with 60,000 personnel, followed by Telephilippines Inc. (Teleperformance) with 42,000 and Accenture with more than 35,000 Filipinos on its regular payroll.
Citing figures from the Philippine Statistics Authority, Binay said 54.9 percent of the estimated 1.03 million BPO workers in the country are women.
The lawmaker lauded the decision of Accenture, which decided to grant 120 days of paid maternity leave effective Sept. 1 so that working mothers can focus on caring for their newborn.
“[W]e wish other BPO firms here could do the same,” said Binay, whose congressional district houses some of the country’s largest BPO firms.
The country’s BPO and information technology (IT)-enabled services industry include contact centers, back offices, data transcription, animation, software development, engineering design and digital content.
Based on Binay’s statement, “[t]he IT and Business Processing Association of the Philippines sees the sector generating up to $25 billion in annual revenues and directly employing some 1.3 million Filipinos by 2016.”
The lawmaker is also seeking the exemption of overtime and graveyard shift benefits from the computation of the gross taxable income regardless of hourly pay rate through House Bills 2836 and 4682, which are both pending at the committee level.
The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) expressed support for the proposed measures, saying that well-paid and salaried employees will benefit from such including BPO workers who, it noted, work day and night.
TUCP president and former senator Ernesto Herrera said in a statement last June that overtime and night shift premiums of workers who receive wages higher than the minimum have up to 32 percent in withholding taxes depending on the employee’s tax bracket.
Overtime pay is the additional 25 to 30-percent compensation for labor rendered beyond the required maximum eight hours a day.
The night shift premium is the additional 10-percent pay for work delivered between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.
Under the Labor Code, if the overtime work falls within the graveyard shift, the overtime pay is added to the employee’s regular hourly rate before computing the night differential pay.