14 April 2015

Longer Maternity Leave Period is Being Pushed

Maternity Leave
Before the Women's Month celebration ends, the Philippine Senate committee on women, family relations, and gender equality pushed for a measure that would mandate companies to allow employees who gave birth a longer period to take a leave.

Under a Senate proposal, the current 60- to 78-day paid maternity leave period would be extended to 90 days. But Senator Pia Cayetano, the committee's chairwoman, is inclined to extend that to 14 weeks or 3 and a half months, in compliance with an International Labor Organization (ILO) convention that the Philippines still has not ratified.

Cayetano stressed the importance of mothers being able to take care of and breastfeed their newborn children for a longer period than what the law currently allows.

"Until we make our maternity benefits more conducive, many women will end up leaving the workforce," she told reporters after a hearing on the measure on Tuesday.

"We give extended maternity leave to the mother so they can focus on being a mother for the first few months and get their pay. Then they will be able to return to the workforce confident that their children are healthy and in good hands."

In Sweden, the maternity leave period lasts for at least 9 months, according to UNICEF country representative Lotta Sylwander.

The wisdom behind it, she said, is that parents should be allowed to care for their children if government is unable to assist them with the cost of hiring carers. She said the same is true for the country.

"In a society like the Philippines where more and more single mothers have babies, where nuclear families are becoming more and more common, it's going to be increasingly more difficult for parents to find someone to take care of their baby, as also the cost for baby care or child care is going to increase," Sylwander told the committee.

The UNICEF recommends having six months for maternity leave. Although Cayetano finds it difficult to achieve that for now, she said the Senate can find a compromise by making three months of it paid and the other half unpaid and optional.

No representative from the employer's federation attended Tuesday's hearing, but Cayetano sees no reason for employers to oppose the measure.

She also made a warning against employers who may choose not to hire pregnant women should the law mandate a longer period for maternity leave.

"Ako po ang makakalaban n'yo diyan (You will have to go against me)," Cayetano said.

"Napakaliit lang na bagay 'yan sa inyong financial position and it will not help our society in any way if women are discriminated just because of pregnancy (It will create a very small impact on your financial position, and it will not help our society in any way if woman are discriminated against just because of pregnancy)."