Workers looking forward to expanded maternity leave, work-from-home laws

October 4, 2018 - 4:33 PM
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File photo of pregnant woman at eight months. (Interaksyon/Bernard Tesla)

Filipino workers are hopeful for better work conditions after the Maternity Leave and Work from Home bills were ratified by Congress in the past week.

The Senate on Wednesday ratified the bicameral conference committee’s report on the 105-day expanded maternity leave.

Under the bill, working mothers will receive 105 days of paid leave after giving birth. Single mothers will receive an additional 15 days of leave, with an option to extend it to 30 days.

Fathers will receive 14 days of leave to allow them to bond with their new children.

Another bill seeking to assist the country’s workforce was also ratified by the Senate.

The “Telecommuting” bill that seeks to allow white collar private sector employees to work from the comfort of their homes will provide a voluntary and optional work-from-home program that guarantees equal benefits for home-based employees.

Sen. Joel Villanueva said that the legal framework and guidelines for the program will be developed in cooperation with the Department of Labor and Employment once the bill is signed into law.

The bill hopes to allow employees to spend more time with family and save them from facing intense traffic in their daily commute.

While the two bills await the approval of the president, Filipino office workers are hailing the development as a victory for employee rights.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros, one of the Senate version of the bill’s sponsors in the upper house said that the ratification was “a victory for Filipino women.”

According to Hontiveros, the last time an increase in maternity leaves was approved was in 1992.

“Now, we not only have a maternity leave policy that is at par with international standards, it also includes modern provisions to adequately respond to the everyday reality confronted by women and our families,” Hontiveros said.

She explained that what made the proposed law unique were the additional leaves given to fathers.

Rep. Pia Cayetano (Taguig) in an interview with ANC on Thursday countered the concerns raised by business groups, who claim that the measure will only make employers choose to hire more men than women.

“You’re earning millions of pesos, you’re telling me you cannot afford P16,000 to allow this woman to have 40 days with her baby? Seriously? Tell that to every woman in her face,” said Cayetano.

She said that the current 60-day policy is not enough for mothers to properly bond with their children.

“I ask you to take another look at this and look at this from the perspective of taking care of the women in the workforce,” she added.

Why new policies are needed

The Philippines’ current 60-day policy lags behind other Southeast Asian countries. Vietnam grants the most leaves with 120 to 180 days, depending on the nature of the mother’s employment.

Singapore meanwhile allows 112 days, while Cambodia, Indonesia and Thailand allow 90 days.

Groups advocating for more paid maternity leaves in the United States have pointed to research that shows the benefits.

Some studies have shown that paid maternity leaves will be more beneficial for women of color and those from lower-income households.

Studies showing the long-term economic benefits of paid maternity leaves have also been brought up by advocates.

According to the study, women who benefit from the leaves become more productive at work and thus are more cost-efficient employees for employers.

A study by the University of Maryland meanwhile found that longer maternity leaves may be needed to prevent the onset of postpartum depression, a mental illness that has been tied to neglectful and abusive behavior in new mothers.