• The 120-Day Maternity Leave Has NOT Yet Been Signed into Law

    A year after the Senate passed the landmark law, it still isn't approved in Congress
    by Rachel Perez .
  • The 120-Day Maternity Leave Has NOT Yet Been Signed into Law
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  • Filipino women have lauded the passage of the Senate Bill (SB) No. 1305 or the Expanded Maternity Leave Act. But, a year later, the bill has yet to be enacted into law. We are still waiting on the counterpart bill from the House of Representatives (HOR) to be approved and passed. Then, it will still undergo a bicameral committee hearing before a final proposal is submitted for the Philippine president's signature. 

    In a roundtable discussion attended by SmartParenting.com.ph today, March 5, at the Senate, Sen. Risa Hontiveros, who authored the bill, tells us she hopeful the HOR counterpart bill will be passed this month.

    "We're really hopeful and cheering Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy (chairperson HOR committee on Women and Gender Equality) former chairman Rep. Emmeline Aglipay-Villar and others [who support the bill in Congress]," she said.  

    The Philippines maternity law currently allows for 60 paid leave days for women who have had a vaginal delivery, and 78 paid leave days for women who delivered via a C-section. Our country has the lowest number of paid maternity leave days in Southeast Asia, well below the 98-day recommendation of the International Labor Organization (ILO). Vietnam offers 180 days, while Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, and Malaysia offers 90 days of maternity leave.

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    The Expanded Maternity Leave Act will give new mothers more time to recover from childbirth and focus on her postpartum care. Studies have shown that having a longer maternity leave will help new moms lower their chances of developing postpartum depression. A longer maternity leave will also give moms more time to care and bond with her baby, and arrange for caregivers when she goes to work or needs a break.

    Doctors have highlighted that one of the crucial benefits of the proposed law is giving moms more time to establish an exclusive breastfeeding practice and reap the benefits breast milk for her and her baby. 

    "Doctors have advised rin na if possible it's really better na the first months of exclusive breastfeeding sa bahay kasi yung pa rin yung pinaka-conducive na atmosphere," Sen. Hontiveros stressed. "The best [way to establish breastfeeding] is when the baby's really latched on [to the mother]," she added. 

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    Sen. Hontiveros welcomed suggestions from the participants of the roundtable, which she said they could consider for the final version once it's discussed in the bicameral commitee. Some of the good ideas we heard: How to ensure companies abide the law once passed; how to encourage women who are self-employed to pay Social Security System (SSS) contributions to avail of the benefit; and extending the benefit to other post-pregnancy and post-childbirth complications such as a hysterectomy, for example. (Today's law extends the benefits to women who had a miscarriage, not just those who've given birth. The proposed law does not discriminate if one delivers her baby naturally or via C-section.)

    Among the bill's provisions, perhaps worth noting are these groundbreaking provisions: 

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    Solo mothers get additional leave days. 
    If you're a solo mom, you'd be entitled to an additional 30 days of paid maternity leave. That's on top of the 120 days, so you'd have a total of 150 days of paid maternity leave. 

    Leave days can be transferred to other caregivers. 
    A new mom is allowed to transfer a maximum of 30 days of maternity leave days to her husband or partner (one need not be married to avail of the provision) or any family member that can help care for her newborn.

    "Nakaktuwa nga na in a year since we've passed [the act] in the Senate, maraming nagme-message, hindi lang moms, mga dads rin, na nagtatanong, 'Kelan ba magigin batas yan?' Fathers are more involved, more excited, parang sinisingil nila na, 'I want that benefit, too,' Sen. Hontiveros shared.  

    While the proposed expanded maternity leave act does not change the measly 7-day paternity leave, this writer suggested that the proposed longer maternity leave's 30 transferable days could be simultaneously availed by the new mom and dad so they could care for their newborn together. 

    It has provisions for adoptive parents.
    The Expanded Maternity Leave Act allows adoptive parents, male or female, a 30-day paid parental leave after adopting a child, regardless of age, to help the child and the family adjust to having a new member. 

    It gives the new mom a choice.
    "Isang prinsipyo talaga ng Expanded Maternity Leave is the informed choice of the mom. Walang pwersahan na you have to stay home for 120 days," Sen. Hontiveros explained. "Whatever decision the new mom makes, she is guaranteed the whole benefit," the senator added.

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    Another misconception about the proposed longer maternity leave is how it would affect employers and companies. A few of the concerns that came up during the discussion was a longer maternity leave might pose a threat a woman's tenure in the company.

    But Sen. Hontiveros says companies and employers benefit from the proposed law. "Dahil nakapagpahinga ng sapat yung mga women employees, pagbalik nila, full strength, full health, full productivity ulit."

    New mom employees who have had more maternity leave days have fewer absences because they are healthy and their baby is healthy. It also promotes company loyalty and boosts morale. 

    "It's an investment really in our society, in our women now, in future students who are their kids, who are the companies future workers, managers, entrepreneurs," Sen. Hontiveros says. "The bigger picture thinking is what's good for the employee is good for the employers and what's good for the company is good for the economy. And of course, what's good for the economy is good for the society and all the families that make it up." 

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    Watch the roundtable dicussion below:

    Let your voices be heard. Send your congressmen and congresswomen a letter or an email declaring your support for the Expanded Maternity Leave Act, so that we may help push this proposal to become law. 

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