Philippine House of Reps approves expanding maternity leave to 100 days

Voting 191-0-0, the Philippine House of Representatives has approved House Bill 4113, aka the “100 Days Maternity Leave Bill.” The vote was taken on September 4 on the bill’s third and final reading. Senate Bill 1305, passed in March 2017, provides for 120 days of maternity leave. The two branches of the Philippine Congress are expected to convene soon to reconcile the two bills.

Current Philippine law provides for 60 days of paid maternity leave for normal childbirth and 78 days for cesarean delivery. The nation has one of the shortest legally mandated maternity leaves in Southeast Asia. Neighboring countries, in contrast, provide between 90-180 days of leave.

The International Labour Organization’s standard is 98 days.

Nutrition issue

In an October 2016 interview with CNN Philippines, Democratic Independent Workers’ Association party-list representative Emmeline Aglipay-Villar stated the maternity-leave issue isn’t simply about workers’ rights, but also nutrition.

“Most of the time, women stop breastfeeding due to the problem of having to return to work,” said Aglipay-Villar. “The reason why our malnutrition rate is very high in the Philippines is because a lot of babies do not meet that requirement of being breastfed for two months.”

Impact on employers

A point of contention among those who oppose the bill is the possibility that increased maternity leave could increase business costs and disrupt productivity. Critics say a 100-day maternity leave – added to sick leave, vacation leave and holidays mandated by law – could translate to employees reporting for work for fewer than half of the 250 working days of the year. Attorney Rico De Guzman of the Sub-Committee on Labor at the Management Association of the Philippines said such a scenario might result in a financial loss to employers, given that about half of the country’s workforce is female (CNN Philippines).

Proponents of the bill worked hard to ensure women won’t be discriminated against if the bill becomes law; but much consideration was also given to the concerns of employers.

“I’m very happy to support 120 [days], but just to be sure that we consider the concerns of the employers sector, we should hear from the Social Security System (SSS),” said House Deputy Speaker and bill co-author Pia Cayetano.

Under the proposal, both the SSS and employers will shoulder employee pay during maternity leave.

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