From a legal standpoint, we may also pay tribute to mothers in a way that extends beyond the purely personal sphere. The Philippines has an obligation to pass measures—at a national level—to strengthen the social protection of women workers, specifically as regards maternity protection at the workplace.
Our country falls below regional and international standards in terms of statutory paid maternity leave. Based on a 2012 report by the International Labor Organization (ILO), our country grants one of the fewest paid maternity leave days, compared with its Southeast Asian neighbors. Existing Philippine laws grant only 60 days of paid maternity leave for women who undergo normal childbirth, and 78 days for those who deliver via caesarian section.
In contrast, Vietnam grants expectant mothers 180 days of paid maternity leave, while Singapore grants 112 days’ leave. Myanmar grants 98 days’ paid leave, in line with the recommended number of paid maternity leave days under Convention 183 of the ILO.
Women who have undergone childbirth face many challenges, including postpartum recovery, nursing, childcare, and unpaid emotional labor and housework – challenges which are made all the more difficult if the mothers are part of the workforce.
Recognizing that the current maternity leave benefit of 60 days (or 78 days) is inadequate, the Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 1305, or the Expanded Maternity Leave Act, on its third and final reading last March 2017. The Expanded Maternity Leave Bill provides for 120 days of paid maternity leave to all covered female workers in the public and private sector. A covered female worker may extend her maternity leave for an additional 30 days without pay, provided that she gives her employer a written notice at least 45 days before the end of the 120-day paid maternity leave period. Furthermore, in case the worker qualifies as a solo parent under the Solo Parents’ Welfare Act, such worker will be granted 150 days of paid maternity leave.
The Expanded Maternity Leave Bill does not distinguish between births through natural delivery or caesarian section. Maternity leave under the proposed measure shall be granted to women workers in every instance of pregnancy or miscarriage, regardless of frequency. This expands the current law, under which entitlement to maternity leave applies only to the first four deliveries.
A worker who is entitled to maternity leave benefits under the measure may even allocate 30 days of maternity leave credits to the child’s father, regardless of whether she is married to him or not. In case of death, absence or incapacity of the child’s father, the covered female worker may transfer 30 days of maternity leave credits to an alternate caregiver, who may be a relative within the fourth degree of consanguinity or the current partner of the female worker sharing the same household.
Under Republic Act 8187, or the Paternity Leave Act of 1996, fathers are only granted seven paid paternity leave days for the first four deliveries or miscarriages of their respective legitimate spouses with whom they are cohabiting. Pursuant to the proposed bill, a father living with the mother of his child, to whom he is married, may avail of the allocated leave credits in addition to the seven days paid paternity leave granted under existing law. A father who is living with the mother of his child to whom he is not married, on the other hand, may avail only of the allocated leave credits.
The passage of the Expanded Maternity Leave Bill would put us at par with our Southeast Asian neighbors. However, two Mother’s Day celebrations have passed and that bill still has not been signed into law, with the measure’s counterpart version in the House of Representatives still awaiting approval of its members. Hopefully, before the next Mother’s Day celebration in May 2019, the bill becomes law and mothers in the Philippines will have more to celebrate.
Richelle Dianne R. Patawaran is a senior associate of Mata-Perez, Tamayo & Francisco (MTF Counsel). She is a corporate, deal, litigation and labor lawyer. The contents of the above article are intended for general information purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. If you have any question or comment regarding this article, you may email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit MTF Counsel’s website at www.mtfcounsel.com.