FILIPINAS have more reason to celebrate International Women’s Day this year. The unity of women workers through proactive trade unions, women’s health advocates and women’s rights activists bore fruit and gave birth to a progressive legislation – the expanded maternity leave. The law adds 45 days to the maternity leave days. Whether by normal delivery or by Caesarian section, the working mother will now enjoy 105 days of maternity leave. Also, all female workers in the informal economy are covered, regardless of civil status or status of the child.
But we don’t want to get caught up in the celebration. We should not let our guards down. The battle shifts to the crafting of the Implementing Rules and Regulation of this law. For sure, opponents of trade union and women’s rights will try their best to muddle the spirit of the law.
Employers, government offices and local government units have key roles in the success of the expanded maternity leave law. LGUs, most especially, have the mandate to implement this law. They can cite the new law and the Local Government Code as legal bases. They can exercise their powers on business permit renewal to make sure all enterprises in their jurisdictions comply with properly implement this new law.
The direct cost impact of the 105-day maternity leave is small. Of the 256,472 women who availed of Social Security System (SSS) maternity benefits in 2016, only 18 percent of them exceed the P16,000 maximum salary credit claim. SSS itself said the impact is only 0.3 percent contribution increase. And if SSS would improve its collection efficiency, which is currently at around 40 percent only, then there will be no more need for a premium hike. Most women also opt to return to work soon after giving birth so as to get back to normal.
As to workplace operations disruptions, there are already many ways to infuse flexibility into processes. Responsible corporate citizens can be very profitable because of employees who remain loyal to their caring employers.
Instead of resisting the new law, all sectors must collaborate so that workable ways to effectively carry it out in the implementing rules and regulations. Many women are loyal, hardworking employees and some even hold key posts in our workplaces. Keeping them is good for business.