By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA — Progressive women lawmakers of the Makabayan coalition are pushing for the immediate passage of a landmark law that will lengthen the 60-day paid maternity leave to 100 days, as well as protect other rights of pregnant women workers.
House Bill 4113, which is the consolidated version of 15 bills, has been awaiting plenary approval since October 28 last year, when it was endorsed by the House Committee on Gender and Equality.
Aside from giving a longer paid leave period for female employees in the public and private sector, the bill also gives an option to extend the maternity leave to 30 days without pay.
“Let us mark the first month of 2017 with a bold, landmark move to uphold and promote women’s vital role in economy by approving House Bill 4113 extending the maternity leave to 100 days, said Gabriela Women’s Partylist Rep. Emmi de Jesus in a speech in Congress, Jan. 24.
The current law provides maternity leave for only 60 days for normal delivery, and 78 days for caesarian section delivery. The proposed law gives pregnant women workers 100 days maternity leave regardless of the mode of their delivery.
De Jesus said the current law is way below the 90-days standard of South East Asian countries, and much so from the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) Maternity Protection Convention, which gives at least 14 weeks, with provision for a six-week compulsory post-natal leave.
ACT Teachers Party-list France Castro also gave a speech at the House on Jan. 24, saying the bill’s approval is “long overdue.” “Delaying its passage any longer is a disservice to toiling Filipino women,” Castro said.
De Jesus and Castro are among the co-authors of consolidated bill.
Castro said public school teachers are among those who clamor for a longer paid maternity leave, especially since many of them are solo parents. “The demand for such extension will enable the teachers to breastfeed and nurture their newborn and to attend to all their needs,” she said.
Under Section 6 of HB 4113, maternity leave will be granted to all female workers in the government and female members of the Social Security System (SSS) regardless of civil status.
Section 7 of the bill also gives maternity leave pay even to terminated employees whose childbirth, miscarriage, or abortion occurs not more than 15 calendar days after her termination.
Women in the informal economy and voluntary contributors to the SSS will also receive maternity leave benefits as long as they have remitted at least three months of contributions in 12 period immediately preceding the semester of her childbirth or miscarriage.
De Jesus said a longer maternity period benefits not only the woman, who gets to fully recover from childbirth, but also improve the infant’s health. The proposed bill extends the breastfeeding period, aiding the development of the child, she added.
Protecting women’s right
In her sponsorship speech, De Jesus said women workers are the most exploited workers in the Philippines, many of whom are in low-paying contractual jobs, especially in the wholesale and retail trade sector, of which women account for 60 percent of total workers.
“This is the sector where labor contractualization is rampant, where sales ladies are shuffled every five months and are forced to endure long hours of standing for a measly pay,” she said.
She noted that 5.6 million women workers, or one-third of total female workers, are aged 20 to 34 years old – the best reproductive years for women.
De Jesus also decried the lack of public maternal health service for women because of the privatization of government hospitals. This, coupled with stringent company rules, push women workers to cut short their maternity leave. She said some companies even warn against pregnancy among women workers, or fire those who are found to be pregnant.