Four Senate committees have approved the bill increasing the paid maternity leave period for government and private sector workers from 60 days to 100 days regardless if the delivery was normal or caesarian and an optional extension of 30 days leave without pay.
The consolidated bill “Expanded Maternity Leave Law of 2015” states that the "State shall institutionalize a mechanism to expand the maternity leave period of working women to provide them with ample transition time to regain health and overall wellness as well as to assume maternal roles before resuming full-time work."
It was prepared by the Senate committees on women, children, family relations, and gender equality; finance; government corporations and public enterprises; and civil service, government reorganization and professional regulation.
The bill states that any pregnant employee in government service, regardless of employment status, shall be granted a maternity leave of 100 days, with full pay based on her average weekly or regular wages, regardless if the delivery was normal or caesarian.
An additional maternity leave of 30 days, without pay, can be availed of at the option of the employee provided that she gives the head of the agency due notice, in writing, at least 45 days before the end of her ordinary maternity leave.
Meanwhile, for private employees, the bill amends the Social Security Act of 1997 so that a female member who has paid at least three monthly contributions in the 12-month period immediately preceding the semester of his childbirth or miscarriage shall be paid her daily maternity benefit which shall be computed based in the average monthly salary credit for 100 days.
The 30-day maternity leave, without pay provision, shall apply to private employees, similar to those in government service.
“Employees availing of the maternity leave period and benefits must receive not less than two-thirds of their regular monthly wages. Employers from the private sector shall be responsible to pay the salary differential between the actual cash benefits received from the SSS by the covered employees and their average weekly or regular wages, for the entire duration of the ordinary maternity leave,” the bill states.
The exceptions, however, 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; those considered as micro business enterprises and 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 herein provided.
The bill also states that the existing maternity benefits currently granted by employer with or without collective bargaining agreements (CSA), or under present laws, if more beneficial to the female employee, shall not be diminished because of the Act.
“As such, the exercise of this option by them shall not be used as basis for demotion in employment or termination. The transfer to a parallel position or reassignment from one organizational unit to another in the same agency shall be allowed provided that it shall not involve a reduction in rank, status or salary,” the bill states.
It also orders the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) and the Social Security System (SSS) to immediately conduct a review of the maternity leave benefits of women employees in the government service and the private sector, respectively.
“Thereafter, they shall include maternity leave benefits in their valuation report conducted every four years for the SSS and every three years for the GSIS, or more frequently as may be necessary, with the end in view of meeting the needs of pregnant women and improving their welfare by increasing existing maternal benefits,” according to the bill.
The bill, submitted to the Senate plenary last month, will be deliberated by the senators for approval for second and third reading. Once it is approved by the senators, the Senate and House of Representatives will convene the bicameral conference committee to reconcile disagreeing provisions, if there is any.
Several bills also seeking additional maternity benefits both for government and private sector employees are pending at the House of Representatives.
In her sponsorship speech, Senator Pia Cayetano said the present 60 days maternity leave for government employees, and 60 to 78 days for employees in the private sector, depending on the mode of delivery is less than the minimum 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 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 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 84 days,” she said.
She added that based on 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.