28 October 2016

Philippines to get better maternity leave legislation

The Philippines House committee on women and gender equality chaired by Representative Emmeline Aglipay-Villar has endorsed for plenary approval a bill seeking to increase the maternity leave period with an option to extend that leave without pay.

House Bill 4113, a substitute measure for 15 bills, aims to protect the maternal health and postnatal health care of women employed in both the government service and private sector, as well as the welfare of the child.

“The bill reached second reading in the House and a version of the bill from the Senate was passed and transmitted for concurrence during the 16th Congress,” said Aglipay-Villar. Elizabeth Angsioco, National Chairperson of the Democratic Socialist Women of the Philippines (DSWP) and one of the resource persons during the committee hearing, said the existing maternity leave benefits of 60 to 78 days is extremely inadequate and applicable laws need to be amended.

“We belong to a group of countries with the shortest maternity leaves in the whole world based on the International Labor Organization (ILO) resources,” Angsioco said.

One of the key provisions of the bill is it increases the maternity leave period to 100 days with pay and an option to extend for an additional 30 days without pay for female workers in the government service and in the private sector.

Likewise, it grants the same coverage to female workers in both government and private sector regardless of civil status, miscarriage, or abortion after termination; to female workers in the informal economy, those with pending administrative cases and those who are not members of the Social Security System (SSS).

The proposal further assures security of tenure to female workers and emphasises that maternity leave shall not be used as basis for demotion in employment or termination, and allows transfer to a parallel position or reassignment from one organisational unit to another in the same agency provided that it shall not involve a reduction in rank, status or salary.

Another provision states that a female SSS member who has paid at least three monthly contributions in the 12-month period immediately preceding the semester of her childbirth or miscarriage shall be paid her daily maternity benefit which shall be computed based on the average monthly salary credit, for 100 days, regardless if the delivery was normal or by Caesarian and subject to conditions as provided in the bill.

The measure specifies that female workers in the private sector availing of the maternity period and benefits must receive not less than two-thirds of their regular monthly wages and that employers shall be responsible for the salary differential between the actual cash benefits received from the SSS and their average weekly or regular wages, for the entire duration of the ordinary maternity leave subject to exceptions.

These exceptions are: those operating distressed establishments; those retail/service establishments employing not more than 10 workers; those who pay their workers on a purely commission, boundary, or task basis; and those who are paid a fixed amount for performing a specific work.

Others included in the exceptions: those considered as micro business enterprises and are engaged in the production, processing, or manufacturing or products or commodities including agro-processing, trading, and services whose total assets are not more than P3 million; and those who are already providing similar or more than the benefits as provided in the bill.

The bill designates the Civil Service Commission (CSC) and the SSS to immediately conduct a review of the maternity leave benefits of women employees in the government service and the private sector, respectively, and include maternity leave benefits in their valuation report conducted every four years for the SSS and every three years for the CSC, or more frequently as may be necessary.