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Thursday, April 18, 2024

The 105-day maternity leave ‘law’

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"This will truly benefit the Filipino working woman."


The advocacy for better maternity benefits started in the early or mid-90s. I know because at that time, I was Chair of the Lakas Manggagawa Labor Center (LMLC) Women’s Committee. The women across labor centers, meaning the Left, Right, and Center, worked together for better maternity benefits for women workers.

It was a time when the different ideological groups started working together, albeit tactically. As far as the labor movement went, all centers, from the Trade Union Center of the Philippines (TUCP), to the Federation of Free Workers (FFW), LMLC, to Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) were together in the advocacy for specific workers’ issues. They even put up the then Labor Advisory Consultative Council.

Similarly, the women were actively advocating better maternity benefits including longer paid maternity leaves. I distinctly remember doing activities with the Kilusan ng Manggagawang Kababaihan (KMK) of KMU, and the women of FFW and TUCP. It was during this advocacy when I experienced my first television interview the host of which was now Senator Risa Hontiveros. Our battle cry then was “Pregnancy and Childbirth as Social Responsibility.”

The advocacy did not stop. For many Congresses, the bill has been repeatedly refiled but it is only this Congress that passed the “105-Day Expanded Maternity Leave Law”. I was part of the process in the House of Representatives and here, I should commend the Committee on Women and Gender Equality (CWGE) under the leadership of its Chair, Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy for the hard work the CWGE has been doing.

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While I have been critical of a number of bills passed by the HOR, I have to say that my experience in working with the CWGE has been quite productive. From the previous Chairs to Rep. BH as we call the present Chair, I am witness to how efficient, consultative, and progressive the Committee has been. It has approved a good number of important bills on and for women. Not many know this but we must give credit where credit is due.

Indeed, the 105-day maternity leave bill has undergone the scrutiny of the Bicameral Conference Committee and it has reconciled the disagreeing provisions of the bills passed by the HOR and Senate, HB No. 4113 and SB No. 1305. Both Houses have ratified the consolidated bill entitled, “Increasing the Maternity Leave Period to One Hundred Five (105) Days for Female Workers With an Option to Extend for an Additional Thirty (30) Days Without Pay, and Granting an Additional Fifteen (15) Days for Solo Mothers, and for Other Purposes”.

This has been waiting for President Rodrigo Duterte’s signature since Jan. 21 and will lapse into law on February 21 if he does not sign or veto it. For the sake of the millions of Filipino working women, I am keeping my fingers crossed that the President does not veto this crucial legislation.

This almost-a-law-bill will benefit virtually all working women of reproductive age as it provides a mandatory 105 days of PAID maternity leave to those in the public and private sectors, as well as to women workers in the informal economy. Moreover, this “law” does not discriminate on the basis of civil status, which means that unmarried women are covered; on the basis of number of children, as there is no limit to the number of pregnancies covered; and on the basis of employment status.

The “law” makes available to the concerned women the option of an additional unpaid maternity leave of thirty (30) days for as long as they inform their superior in writing at least forty-five days before their leave ends.

Moreover, for solo mothers who qualify under Republic Act 8972 (Solo Parent Law), they are entitled to an additional fifteen (15) days of paid maternity leave.

Another important feature of this “law” is that a woman may opt to allocate a maximum of seven (7) days of her 105 days to the father of the child. This is outside of the leaves provided under RA 8187 (Paternity Leave Act of 1996). This means that fathers may have more time with their babies for bonding. In cases of death, absence, or incapacity of the father, the mother may allot the seven days to a relative up to fourth degree of consanguinity, or to the woman’s present partner.

Even miscarriages and emergency pregnancy termination are covered under this “law” with a paid leave of sixty (60) days.

Another important provision of the “law” is in regards the assurance of security of tenure of the women workers. Availing of the new maternity leave “law” cannot be used as a basis to demote or terminate a woman worker.

Women workers in the informal economy may be covered for as long as they are members of the SSS and have paid a minimum of three months of contributions. Coverage of those who are not SSS members shall be governed by PhilHealth Circular No. 022-2014, the “Social Health Insurance Coverage and Benefits for Women About to Give Birth”.

Lastly, the penalties against those who will be proven to have broken this “law” are quite stiff consisting of fine of not less than PhP20,000.00 nor more than PhP200,000.00, or imprisonment of not less than six years and one day, nor more than twelve years, or both.

This “law” will truly benefit the Filipino working woman. President Duterte should sign it or just let it lapse into law.

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