Extend maternity leave to 100 days

Expanded Maternity Leave Law of 2015
CR No. 283, SBN 2982

By Senator Pia S. Cayetano
Sponsorship Speech
October 6, 2015

Mr. President, esteemed colleagues,

Our fundamental law recognizes the important role of women in nation-building. Article XIII, Sec. 14 of the Constitution mandates the State to protect the rights of working women, taking into account their maternal functions, and to provide facilities and opportunities that will enhance their welfare and enable them to realize their full potential in the service of the nation.

In recent years, the Philippines has been recognized as one of the best countries in the world to be a woman. We have enacted landmark laws that uphold women’s rights, and support women who balance their roles at home and in the workplace. However, there is still more to be done so that working women can start and raise their families in conditions of security.

Today, I stand before you to sponsor Committee Report No. 283, or the Expanded Maternity Leave Law. This measure seeks to expand the maternity leave period in order to provide mothers with ample transition time to regain health and overall wellness, as well as to assume their maternal roles before resuming full-time work, and at the same time, give sufficient financial support while on maternity leave.

The International Labor Organization (ILO), recognizing the need to further promote equality of all women in the workforce as well as the health and safety of mother and child, adopted Convention No. 183 or the Maternity Protection Convention in the year 2000. Article 4 of this Convention sets the standard period of maternity leave at not less than ninety eight (98) days. [1]

Currently, our laws provide for sixty (60) days of maternity leave for government employees, and sixty (60) to seventy-eight (78) days for employees in the private sector, depending on the mode of delivery. This is considerably less than the minimum of ninety eight (98) days prescribed by the International Labor Organization.

In fact, in the ASEAN region, we lag behind in terms of maternity leave duration. Vietnam provides one hundred twenty (120) to one hundred eighty (180) days of maternity leave, depending on working conditions and nature of the work. Singapore, on the other hand, provides one hundred twelve (112) days of maternity leave. Both countries give beyond what the ILO prescribes. Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, and Thailand all provide a maternity leave period of eighty four (84) days, while the Philippines provides only sixty (60) days for normal delivery, while seventy eight (78) days for caesarian delivery. [2]

Based on the statistics provided by the Institute for Labor Studies of the Department of Labor and Employment, ASEAN member states with higher maternity benefits show a higher life expectancy and lower maternal mortality ratio. [3] It is not surprising, then, that the Philippines ranks 8th out of 10 ASEAN countries in terms of life expectancy at birth, and 6th in maternal mortality ratio. [4]

The proposed bill seeks to increase the current maternity leave period to one hundred (100) days for female employees in government service and in the private sector, regardless of the mode of delivery. They can also avail of an additional maternity leave of thirty (30) days, without pay, at the option of the employee. This expansion of the maternity leave period shall not in any way diminish the existing maternity benefits granted by the employer if more beneficial, and it shall not affect the female employee’s security of tenure.

The bill also provides that employees availing of the maternity leave period and benefits are entitled to receive not less than two-thirds (2/3) of their regular monthly wages. Employers from the private sector shall shoulder the salary differential between the actual cash benefits received from the SSS and the average weekly or regular wage of the employee. Data from the SSS show that for the years 2012-2014, the availment of the maternity leave is less than 2% of the total female population of SSS members. This translates to 212,142 beneficiaries for 2012; 231,102 beneficiaries for 2013; and 221,990 beneficiaries for 2014 out of around 12 million female SSS members.

As a health measure and in line with addressing infant mortality, mothers are encouraged to breastfeed. Studies show that the biggest hindrance in successfully breastfeeding one’s baby is going back to work. Corollarily, longer maternity leave periods encourage exclusive breastfeeding in women. A study by UNICEF shows that in Norway, the extension of paid maternity leave from seventy (70) to two hundred eighty (280) days increased breastfeeding rates from ten (10) to eighty (80) percent. [5] Exclusive breastfeeding not only gives babies ample protection against disease and life-threatening illnesses, it also leads to healthier children and reduces the amount of money that health systems spend on illnesses caused by poor infant and child feeding, as revealed in the study by the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN). [6] Strong maternity leave policies are also beneficial for employers, as studies show that it creates a more stable and loyal workforce, including reduced employee turnover and absenteeism, and increased participation of women in the workforce. [7]

Mr. President, this measure seeks to achieve a two-fold purpose: to promote the health and wellbeing of working mothers and their infants, and to achieve genuine equality of opportunity by enabling working women to raise families in conditions of security. [8]

For working women and their families, pregnancy and maternity are both especially exciting and vulnerable times. Before, during and after giving birth, we need to be conscious of a mother’s special needs. She needs to prepare herself for the arrival of a new baby, and once the infant is born, she also needs time to care for the newborn, breastfeed and recover from childbirth. This period immediately after giving birth is crucial to ensure that the mother regains optimum health to nurse and nurture her newborn child.

Through policies like this, we aim to institutionalize standards that promote the rights of working women and protect them from discrimination based on maternity. In this light, I humbly urge the swift passage of this bill. Thank you.

End notes

[1] Maternity Protection Convention, 2000. International Labor Organization. http://www.ilo.org/dyn/normlex/en/f?p=NORMLEXPUB:12100:0::NO::P12100_ILO_CODE:C183

[2] ILO Database of Conditions of Work and Employment Laws – Maternity Protection as cited by Department of Labor and Employment

[3] Position Paper of the Department of Labor and Employment.

[4] Discussion on the Possibility of Extending the Maternity Leave Period of Female Employees. Tripartite Executive Committee (TEC) Meeting (Department of Labor and Employment). 14 August 2015.

[5] Ammenhjelpen, E. “Maternity Leave Boosts Breastfeeding” as cited in “All Asia-Pacific Countries Can Implement Six Month Paid Maternity Leave”. UNICEF. April 2013.

[6] IBFAN (5 June 2000). “Maternity Protection Coalition Press Release” and PepsiCo-Global Health Policy Group (2010). “An Overview of Infant & Young Child Feeding Public Health Policy in Vietnam” as cited in “All Asia-Pacific Countries Can Implement Six Month Paid Maternity Leave”. UNICEF. April 2013.

[7] Ibid.

[8] International Labour Standards on Maternity Protection. http://www.ilo.org/global/standards/subjects-covered-by-international-labour-standards/maternity-protection/lang–en/index.htm

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