Happy Women's Month indeed! Thirteen days after we argued that Pinays need an extended maternity leave, the Senate has approved Senate Bill 1305, or the proposed Expanded Maternity Leave Law, which extends the current maternity leave of 60 days to 120 days (four months).
Sen. Risa Hontiveros, who co-sponsored the bill, shared the good news on her Facebook page, saying the vote was unanimous. "After 25 years, isang napakagandang regalo sa lahat ng mga kababaihan ngayong Women's Month!"
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.
Under the bill, 30 of the 120 days are transferrable to other caregivers such as the spouse, common-law partner, and relative up to the 4th degree of consanguinity. It also includes adoptive parents. There is an additional 30 days for solo working mothers. At present, they are only granted seven days of paid leave as provided for under Republic Act 7322.
When she sponsored the bill, Sen. Hontiveros said the proposed law also responds to the pre- and post-natal health needs of working women. "This bill is revolutionary. 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," Sen. Hontiveros said in a GMA News Online report.
For his part, Senate president pro tempore Ralph Recto called for the early signing of the measure. He remarked, "This bill is past its due date. This should have been delivered a long time ago."
Recto added, "On the macro level, longer maternity leaves do no harm to the economy. On the micro level, longer maternity leaves make both the baby and the mother healthy and happy."
Our existing law grants only a 60-day maternity leave for women who give birth via normal delivery, and a 78-day maternity leave for those who give birth via C-section. The current policy is less than the minimum 98-day leave required by the International Labor Organization (ILO).
As a CNN Philippines report pointed out: "Compared to other Asian nations, the Philippines is lagging behind in maternity leave duration. Vietnam provides between 120 to 180 days, while Singapore gives 112 days of maternity leave. Then, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, and Thailand all provide a maternity leave period of 84 days."