The Senate, voting 22-0, on Monday approved on third reading the Expanded Maternity Leave Act (Senate Bill 1305), granting working mothers 60 more days of maternity leave, or a total of 120 days, regardless of whether the birth is normal or caesarean. Solo parents get 150 days of maternity leave.
“Ang gandang regalo nito para sa International Women’s Month. Salamat kay Sen. Risa Hontiveros para sa pagtulak at pag-shepherd sa panukalang ito sa kanyang komite(This is a great gift on International Women’s Month. We thank Sen. Risa Hontiveros for pushing and shepherding this measure in her committee),” said Liberal Party president Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, who was among the first senators to file a similar bill in this 17th Congress.
In his original proposed measure, Pangilinan wanted to increase the maternity leave by 150 percent from 60 days to 150 days.
“Makakapagpahinga at makaka-recover na nang husto ang mga bagong panganak. Masisiguro na ring maaalagaan nang mas mabuti ang mga bagong silang (The new mother would now be able to rest and recover more fully from childbirth. The baby will also be well cared for),” Pangilinan said.
The bill amends Republic Act 1161 or the Social Security Act of 1997, which currently grants a 60-day (for normal childbirth) to 78-day (for caesarean) maternity leave for employees in the private sector. The current law is below the international labor standard on maternal protection that recommends 14 weeks or 98 days of maternity leave.
Under the proposed law, also allowed is an additional maternity leave of 30 days without pay, provided that the employer is informed in writing at least 45 days before the end of her original maternity leave.
Other important provisions of Senate Bill 1305 are:
· The full payment shall be advanced by the employer within 30 days from the filing of the maternity leave application.
· Workers availing of the maternity leave period and benefits must receive not less than two-thirds of their regular monthly wages. “This cash benefit should allow her to maintain herself and her child or children (in case of multiple births) properly in health and in overall well-being,” Pangilinan said.
· Employers from the private sector shall be responsible for payment of the salary differential between the actual cash benefits received from the Social Security System (SSS) by the covered female workers and their average weekly or regular wages, for the entire duration of the ordinary maternity leave, with some exceptions.
· Employees who avail themselves of this benefit shall be assured of security of tenure. This cannot be used as basis for demotion in employment or termination. The transfer to a parallel position or reassignment from one organizational unit to another in the same agency shall be allowed, provided it shall not involve a reduction in rank, status, or salary.
Various studies show the positive health impacts of paid parental leave on the health of children and mothers.
In the bill he filed last July, Pangilinan cited the Public Health Reports from 2011, which said that an increase in the length of paid maternity leave can reduce infant mortality by as much as 10 percent.
Paid maternity leave also increases the likelihood of infants getting well-baby care visits and vaccinations, and the rate and duration of breastfeeding which is known to be very beneficial to the health of mothers, the report said.
The expanded maternity leave proposal is among the first 10 bills filed by Pangilinan for the 17th Congress. Some of the others are the Sagip Saka bill, the Free Wi-Fi bill, and the measure creating the Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.