By Jess Diaz (The Philippine Star), October 29, 2016
MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives Committee on Women and Gender Equality has endorsed for plenary approval a bill seeking to increase the maternity leave period to 130 days.
The measure consolidates 15 related bills that aim to protect the maternal health and postnatal health care of women employed in the government and private sector, as well as the health of the child.
Under the consolidated proposal, the first 100 days of leave would be with pay, while the additional 30 days, at the option of the employee, would be without pay.
The current law allows women to go on maternity leave for 60 to 78 days.
Rep. Emmeline Villar of party-list group Diwa, who chairs the Committee on Women and Gender Equality, hopes the House leadership would give priority to the approval of the consolidated bill.
Proponents of the extended maternity leave said a 120-day absence from work by pregnant women is now the standard in most countries.
Under the consolidated measure, the proposed extended leave would be available to women workers in the public and private sectors regardless of status.
The bill assures the workers of security of tenure. It provides that maternity leave shall not be used as basis for demotion in employment or termination, and allows transfer to a parallel position or reassignment from one organizational unit to another in the same agency provided that it shall not involve a reduction in rank, status or salary.
Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr. authored one of the 15 bills that have been consolidated.
His proposed law sought to extend maternity leave benefits to unmarried workers in the government.
He said while Republic Act 8282 or the Social Security System Act grants maternity benefits to all female employees in the private sector regardless of civil status, Commonwealth Act 647 gives such benefits only to married personnel in the government sector.
“Moreover, under the SSS Act, three monthly contributions are sufficient to qualify a pregnant employee for maternity benefits. In the public sector, however, aside from the prerequisite of marriage, a pregnant employee must have been in the service for at least two years before she can benefit from maternity compensation,” he said.
“This is a clear manifestation there is a double-standard in the application of the law. Regardless of a woman’s civil status, she should be accorded with equal protection and just compensation, particularly when availing herself maternity benefits,” he added.
Andaya said his proposal would put all female workers in the public and private sectors on equal footing.