Senate Bill No. 1305, or the Expanded Maternity Leave Act, which seeks to allow women more time to recover from childbirth and care for their newborns, was recently approved by the Senate. Apart from being the first landmark bill passed by the Senate this year -- and unanimously at that -- this is a huge win for all soon-to-be mothers and newborns in the country.
"This is a revolutionary bill. It will not only give due recognition to women's reproductive rights, it will also push for an equal distribution of child care among Filipino families by recognizing the role of fathers, adoptive parents, and alternate caregivers," said Senator Risa Hontiveros, co-author of the bill.
It will take just one final push for the country to have its maternity leave law updated. After Congress approves its version of the bill, it then goes to the bicameral committee to unify both the Senate and the Congress's versions. The consolidated bill is then sent to President Rodrigo Duterte, whose approving signature is needed to enact the bill into law.
So what makes Senate Bill No. 1307 an awesome gift, not only for mothers but for all parents? Here are some points that the bill improves on from the current policy:
1. It more than doubles the current number of paid maternity leave days. The current law only grants paid maternity leave of 60 days for women who gave birth via normal delivery and 78 days for those who delivered their babies via C-section. Women working in private companies should have at least three months' worth of contributions to the Social Security Services (SSS) within the last 12 months to get the maternity benefits.
The new bill proposes 120 days of paid maternity leave for all female workers in government and the private sector, including freelance or work-at-home mothers, regardless if they are married or not, or whether their child is legitimate or born out of wedlock.
Under Senate Bill No. 1307, the SSS will cover "daily maternity benefit, which shall be computed based on the average monthly salary credit" of private sector female employees. (The current law provides a daily benefit equivalent to 100-percent of her basic salary.) Don’t fret, though. The bill also states that employees availing of the maternity benefit should not get less than two-thirds of their regular monthly salary. Private employers will be required to cover the salary differential between the benefits received from the SSS, though there are exemptions listed.
2. It gives new moms the option to extend her maternity leave. In the proposed law, a new mother could extend their maternity leave for another 30 days but without pay. This is provided she gives her her employer due notice via a written statement at least 45 days before the end of the 120-day mandatory paid maternity leave. Our current law does not allow new moms to extend their paid maternity leave beyond the 60 or 78 days, but they can use their remaining sick leave credits.
3. It gives solo parents more days of paid maternity leave. For single parents, the new bill seeks to allow them 150 days of paid maternity leave, plus the option to extend it for another 30 days without pay. This is only applicable, however, to solo parents who qualify by fulfilling the requirements detailed in the Republic Act No. 8972, or the Solo Parents’ Welfare Act of 2000. As per the law, single parents are only allowed seven days of additional parental leave on top of the annual leave days offered by their employers. Read more about it here.
4. The new bill does not discriminate by number or manner of delivery. The new bill does not differentiate a woman who gave birth via normal delivery or via C-section. It covers all pregnancies and miscarriages, both normal delivery and via C-section. The current law only benefits a woman's first four deliveries.
5. The maternity leave credits are transferable to alternative caregivers. The proposed measure states that a new mom can transfer 30 of the maternity leave credits to a "relative within the fourth degree of consanguinity or the current partner of the female worker sharing the same household" but regardless if they are married. A written notice should be provided to the woman's employer and the alternative caregiver's employer.
In Republic Act No. 8187 or the Paternity Leave Act of 1996, fathers get a total of only seven paid paternity leave days after a miscarriage and only for the first four delivers of his legitimate spouse with whom he is living with. With the new bill, a new dad living with his wife and the mother of his child could avail of the transferred leave credits on top of the seven-day paid paternity leave. A new dads who is not married but is living with the mother of his child could only avail of the transferred leave credits.
6. Adoptive parents can avail of the paid maternity leave. This is a first for Filipino adoptive parents. Parents who legally adopted a child are entitled to 30 days of paid parental leave so long as the person has received a Pre-Adoption Placement Authority issued by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
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Under Republic Act No. 8552, or the Domestic Adoption Act of 1998, prospective adoptive parents of a child under age seven are entitled to the same benefits of a biological parent, to allow them to bond with their prospective child. Under the proposed bill, the benefit with the higher number of leave days shall apply if the adoptive parent qualifies for the above-mentioned benefits under the local adoption law.
7. It allows women to receive maternity leave with pay even after termination. This sounds too good to be true, but keeping this in the final version of the bill would ensure the new mom's and her newborn's well-being. According to the bill, a woman is entitled to maternity leave with pay "even if the childbirth or miscarriage occurs not more than 15 calendar days after the termination of the employee’s service."
Let's all hope our country's lawmakers put an urgent tag to pass this bill as soon as possible.