It's been over a year since the Senate passed Senate Bill No. 1305, or the Expanded Maternity Leave Act. Where is it now? It's pending with the House of Representatives (HOR), which has not approved its version, House Bill No. 4113 or the Expanded Maternity Leave (EML) Bill.
"We call on our representatives in Congress — including the majority floor leader, [Rodolfo] Fariñas — to please support [the bill] and be the EML champion of the respective constituencies. We call them to action and give us a reason to celebrate Women's Month," Shirley Yorong of IndustriALL Women-Philippines said in a press conference in a GMA News report.
GMA News reports that Yorong mentioned during the press conference that the EML bill is "stuck in second reading."
Currently, the law provides 60 maternity leave days for women who gave birth via natural vaginal delivery and 78 for women who delivered their baby via C-section. The Philippines has the lowest number of paid maternity leave days — the International Labor Organization (ILO) recommends 90 days.
The Senate's version of the proposal extends a new mom's maternity leave to 120 days, with an option to transfer a maximum of 30 days to their husband, partner, or family member who can help them care for the new baby. The bill also proposes to give mothers the option to extend for another 30 days without pay. (Read about the salient points of the Senate version here.)
EML, the pending bill in Congress, is a bit different. Instead of 120 days, it extends a new mom's maternity leave for 100 paid days with the option to extend for another 30 days without pay. But the provision to transfer a maximum of 30 days to the husband, partner or family member is also included in the HOR's version. The proposal, when enacted into law, covers women from both the private and public sector, as long as they contribute to the Social Security System or Government Service Insurance System.
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The EML bill is a consolidation of a total of 15 different versions submitted, but it all sought to extend the existing 60-day maternity leave of new mothers. More than 70 lawmakers, co-authors of the proposal, recognize that Filipino mothers need more time to recover from childbirth and more time to care for their newborn child.
We agree and firmly believe that families will benefit with more extended maternity leave. Regional studies have shown that letting a new mom focus on her health, her baby, and her family before returning to work benefits not only her but also her employer.
HOR committee on Women and Gender Equality chairperson RepresentativeBernadette Herrera-Dy emphasized that the bill is primarily for the health of the mother and her child. "If we ensure that both woman and child are productive members of society, how can we not have a better future ahead of us? We're actually taking care of our country," she said during the press conference. (Senator Risa Hontiveros share the same sentiments, calling the bill an investment in the Filipino society. Read about it here.)
Yorong surmises that our lawmakers need a nudge or two to prioritize passage of the bill. For starters, Congress needs to pass their version before a bicameral committee can be convened. The bicameral committee will then draft a final proposal which would be submitted to the president for his signature. Herrera-Dy hopes that the bill gets approved before March 23.
"Iregalo niyo na po sa hanay ng mga kababaihan at sa buong sambayanang Pilipino ngayong Women's Month: Expanded Maternity Leave Bill, ipasa niyo na po," Yorong said.
Let your voices be heard. Send your congressmen and congresswomen a letter or an email declaring your support for the Expanded Maternity Leave Act, so that we may help push this proposal to become law. Click here to find your district's representative.