Thursday, September 16, 2021

Pros and cons of the Expanded Maternity Leave Act

THE newly enacted Expanded Maternity Leave Act granting mothers over three months of paid leave should prompt companies to pay close attention to their business continuity plan (BCP), especially if their employees are looking to raise a family soon.

P&A Grant Thornton gave this advice to businesses in light of the implementation of Republic Act 11210 or the Expanded Maternity Leave Act. The law, signed by President Duterte on Feb. 22, 2019, requires all organizations, whether in the public or private sector, to give mothers 105 days of paid maternity leave.

The expanded benefits apply to every case of pregnancy, with employers required to grant it to their female employees regardless of employment status, civil status, mode of delivery and the child’s legitimacy.

‘Dark side’ to longer parental leaves

The Philippines is moving along other countries around the world in legislating longer paid maternity leaves. While the sentiments behind the new policy may be well-meaning, there may be a “dark side” to longer parental leaves, said Mai Sigue-Bisnar, partner in the Audit and Assurance Division of P&A Grant Thornton.

She cited a survey of the Employers Confederation of the Philippines, which revealed that 68 to 70 percent of respondents were concerned with the “higher cost implications” of doing business in the country.

Aside from paid leave and health insurance, these costs include the overtime pay and health costs of colleagues, who shoulder the additional work, along with the professional fees of any project hires. If the mother is difficult to temporarily replace, the workplace effects could be more substantial, the survey shows. Small businesses bear the brunt, as they may lack the human capital or financial resources to shoulder the long-term absence of female employees.

In the long term, extended maternity leaves could also hurt the careers of mothers.

“Evidence from countries that mandate extended maternity leaves reveals that the longer new mothers are away from paid work, the less likely they are to be promoted, move into management or receive a pay raise when their leave ends. The new mothers are also at greater risk of being fired or demoted,” Sigue-Bisnar added, citing research from the Harvard Business Review.

New moms are also perceived as less committed to their jobs than women who take much shorter maternity leaves, she added.

True work-life integration

Just as crucial as companies recovering from the added expense of expanded maternity leaves is genuine support for mothers in the workplace.

The new law contains a provision to protect women against discrimination from employers. But since gender discrimination may be more rampant and entrenched than people think, companies need to “walk the talk” and go beyond compliance and offering the mandated benefits, said Sigue-Bisnar.

Line managers can be particularly supportive to new mothers by championing their career aspirations to counteract negative perceptions among decision-makers and co-workers, she added.

“It’s about truly supporting women at work. It is not simply about providing the required benefits, but thinking of specific programs that could make the integration of work and family life successful for new parents.” (PR)


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