BUSINESS process outsourcing employee Kariza Rodriguez could not contain her joy upon learning that lawmakers had agreed to lengthen the number of days a mother can spend with her newborn.
For her, extending the maternity leave from 60 days to 100 days (House version) or 120 days (Senate’s version) would mean ample time for her to nurture the child’s early development.
Rodriguez is mother to three-year-old Andi, her firstborn. She breastfed Andi for two and a half years while reporting for work.
“The 100-day leave will give me more time to prepare myself, physically, and mentally before going back to work,” said Rodriguez, who plans to get pregnant in five years’ time.
Voting 191-0-0, lawmakers recently passed House Bill 4113, which seeks to increase the number of days of maternity leave to 100.
This is 20 days short of the Senate’s version of the bill, which proposes 120 days of maternity leave, and an additional 30 days for solo working mothers.
According to real estate agent Mae Godino, the approval is a “big milestone” for working mothers.
“I, for one, was very happy about it,” said Godino. “The current 60-day paid maternity leave is just not enough for mothers, especially for first-time moms to recuperate and bond with their newborns. With the endless feeding and postpartum that we have to deal with, the additional 40 days is a game changer.”
Godino has been waiting for this bill to materialize. She gave birth to her daughter Ali in December, at the time when the bill was still in discussion in the lower house.
The Senate’s extended paid maternity leave version was approved in March 2017. It also seeks a 30-day paid leave for fathers.
Both houses are expected to deliberate on the proposed bill by a bicameral conference committee, after which the final version will be signed into law by the president.
While the aim of extending the maternity leave is to create a healthy workforce among others, business owners raised concerns that the proposed bill will have a negative impact on business operations, considering the country observes plenty of non-working and special holidays.
They said it will also further increase the cost of doing business.
Under the proposal, both the Social Security System and the employer will shoulder the employee’s pay.
“The additional days of leaves will cause disruptions to the day-to-day operations, and this is on top of the additional training and adjustment costs that will be incurred by business owners,” said Steven Yu, vice president of Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI).
According to Yu, the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) will be hardest hit, as they have leaner operations.
“It needs serious consultation with both sectors and timing might not be right,” said business owner Glenn Anthony Soco, also infrastructure development committee head of Regional Development Council 7, adding that once enacted into law, it will increase the cost of doing business and might affect the competitiveness of local industries.
“Our country alone has already one of the highest labor rates in Asia,” said Soco.
Yu said it would be better for the government to subsidize this program and not pass on the cost to employers, especially during such times when price increases are happening at the same time.
“They should find alternative sources of funds or give incentives to business to partly offset the cost,” he said, adding that any increase affects all types of workers.
Yu explained when an employee goes on maternity leave, it’s up to the company to distribute her workload among co-employees.
“It depends on how they plan it. Maternity leave per se is related to humanitarian procreation and it should be supported,” he said.
Filipino-Cebu Business Club Inc. president Rey Calooy, however, supports the bill, saying nurturing a child well is more important than business.
“We support the bill. Dili man pod sila tanan magdungan ug panganak. (They don’t give birth at the same time),” he said. “In fact, most of our member-companies are allowing mothers to bring their children to go with them to work, especially those with clerical jobs,” he added.
FCBI is composed of SMEs in Cebu. For Calooy, a mother becomes more productive at work when she is given enough time to bond with her newborn child, and if she brings her children along with her at their workplace.
Dennis Derige of the Partido ng Manggagawa said the bill, which they hope will be enacted into law immediately, stands to benefit at least 8,000 women in their organization who are mostly employed in the Mactan Economic Zone.
“We are happy with the progress of the bill,” said Derige.
The 100-day paid maternity leave is applicable to a pregnant female worker regardless of her civil status, legitimacy of her child, and whether she gave birth via caesarian section or natural delivery.
The maternity leave would also be granted to female employees in every instance of pregnancy, miscarriage or abortion, regardless of its frequency.
The country’s current 60-day maternity leave policy lags behind those of other Southeast Asian countries. Malaysia, Cambodia, Thailand, and Indonesia currently have 90 days for their maternity leave while Myanmar has 98 days. Laos and Brunei have 105 days. Singapore has 112 days, and Vietnam has the longest maternity leave period at 180 days.