By Genalyn Kabiling and Chino Leyco
A measure granting additional leave benefits for working mothers in both public and private sectors has been signed into law by President Duterte, Malacañang announced on Thursday.
Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea confirmed the signing of the Expanded Maternity Leave Act that extends the paid maternity leave to 105 days for female workers.
“Signed yesterday (Wednesday),” Medialdea said in a text message to reporters.
Republic Act No. 11210 or the “105-day Expanded Maternity Leave Law” was in line with the State’s policy to protect and promote the rights and welfare of working women.
The new law provides 105 days of paid maternity leave to all working mothers and an additional 15 days to solo mothers. Mothers will also have the option to extend for an additional 30 days of unpaid leave. The maternity benefits will apply to every instance of pregnancy, miscarriage or emergency termination of pregnancy regardless of frequency.
The law also includes a provision allowing the allocation of seven maternity leave days to fathers, raising the paternity leave to 14 days from the current seven days.
Prior to the enactment of the law, women are allowed only 60 days of paid maternity leave.
“In recognition of women’s maternal function as a social responsibility, the State shall institutionalize a mechanism to expand the maternity leave period of women workers. This will provide them with ample transition time to regain health and overall wellness as well as to assume material roles before resuming paid work,” the law read.
The law also stated that maternity benefits shall cover all married and unmarried women, including female workers in the informal economy.
The measure said a female member of the Social Security System (SSS) 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. It will be computed based on the average monthly salary credit for 105 days regardless of whether she gave birth via caesarian section or natural delivery.
Workers availing of the maternity benefit leave period and benefits must receive their full pay. Employers from the private sector shall be responsible for payment of the salary differential between the actual cash benefits received from the SSS covered female workers and their average weekly or regular wages during the maternity leave.
Those who avail of the benefits shall also be assured of security of tenure. “As such, the exercise of this option by them shall not be used as basis for demotion in employment or termination,” the law read.
No employer shall discriminate against the employment of women to avoid the benefits, according to the new law.
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo has allayed concerns that the new law expanding the paid maternity leave might push companies to hire men over women.
“Bawal ang discrimination sa atin. They will be held accountable for that,” Panelo said during a Palace press briefing. “Filipinos are family-oriented. These industrialists, businessmen will understand,” he added.
Panelo said they expect companies to follow the new law on expanded maternity leave for working mothers. He said companies have large profits anyway so they could afford such “social service” to their employees.
“They have no choice. They will have to follow the law so you don’t incorporate because it’s in the law,” he said.
Former Special Assistant to the President Christopher Go has also lauded the signing of the expanded maternity leave law by the President.
“Indeed, this new law ensures expectant working mothers enough time to ensure the best possible conditions for a healthy delivery,” Go said.
P7.5 B extra cost for SSS
But state-run SSS said the signing of the law granting additional leave benefits for working mothers will take a toll on the pension fund’s financial standing.
Emmanuel F. Dooc, SSS president and chief executive, admitted that they had opposed the law during its deliberations in Congress due to the financial burden it will put on the pension fund.
But despite their opposition, Dooc promised that they will not delay its implementation, noting they will soon begin the drafting of the law’s implementing rules and regulations (IRR), including a series of public consultations.
“We have to bite the bullet. We cannot be anything. There’s that law,” Dooc told reporters when asked about his reaction about President Durterte’s signing of the expanded maternity leave law.
The SSS chief said the additional maternity benefits would mean P7.5 billion extra cost for the pension fund.
He also said that the new law could be implemented beginning April this year.
With the new law, Dooc said the SSS may consider asking for a 0.5 percentage to 0.6 percentage point increase in contribution rate to recover the additional cost the pension fund would incur in implementing the new maternity leave law.