So, both the Senate and the House of Representatives (HOR) ratified the bicameral conference report on the Expanded Maternity Leave (EML) Bill on Wednesday, October 3. It now only requires the Philippine president's signature to become law.
Yay, right? The great news been lauded as a historic win for Filipino women and children, and it is that many of our readers have been waiting for. The EML is a significant improvement from the current 60 to 78 paid maternity leave days provided for new moms. It's one week more than International Labor Organization's minimum 98-day maternity leave.
So imagine our confusion when Sergio Ortiz-Luis, acting president of the Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP), decided to share his thoughts about the bill.
ABS-CBN Newsreported Ortiz-Luis saying at a press conference, "Kung ikaw ay employer, may diperensya ka kapag nag-hire ka ng babae. Eh 'di ang hihire-in ko ay lalaki. 'Di nagle-leave yun eh," Ortiz-Luis said.
"At the end of the day they didn’t think it through. Sino mag-hihire sa mga babae? Lalong mawawalan ng trabaho ang mga babae," he added. Ortiz-Luiz also predicted that women will lose their jobs because no company would hire them.
So, if we understand this correctly, Ortiz-Luis is bemoaning the loss of productivity and company revenue because the EML bill just provides too much days off work.
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First of all, we're rolling our eyes at his statement about men not taking a leave from work. It's so blatantly false (dads have seven days of paternity leave), and it implies that women always do, whether it's a maternity leave or not.
We'd like to think women get hired because they are qualified to do the job expected of their position (and working moms have proven time and time again they can juggle work and home, thank you very much).
But this idea that a woman cannot be productive or relied upon anymore once she becomes a mother is not only sexist, it happens to be illegal if anyone even puts it in action.
The Philippines has anti-discrimination laws
It's illegal to hire employees purely based on their sex. The Philippines already has several laws in place against discrimination in the workplace, which prohibits non-hiring due to age, sex, or status. Companies will be penalized if they refuse to hire women because she's female, in her prime reproductive age, or has a family.
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Unfortunately, Ortiz-Luis' line of thinking isn't original, and it still exists in the workforce. There are women who are told during job interviews that they probably won't get the job because they have children and that they prioritize family.
One of our readers who decided to apply for a job after her maternity leave told us about her awful experience. She was told she couldn't be hired because they needed someone who was "cowboy."
"When did having your family as a priority hinder someone from doing a great job at work?" she wrote.
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A woman's worth in the workplace should not be determined by the number of days she takes after giving birth. Working moms have proven time and time again that they can perform and excel in both their careers and their family life at home. They don't call us masters at multi-tasking for nothing!
Employers actually benefit from maternity leave
Studies have shown that companies who offer paid maternity leave reported positive benefits on their businesses, such as decreasing the more costly employee turnover and loss of firm-specific skills and human capital.
It also helps boost the morale of female employees, who return to their jobs with increased morale and fewer distractions. If new moms are given enough time to recover, breastfeed, and arrange childcare, they're more focused on their jobs instead of having to take a leave of absence for family emergencies such as a caring for a sick child.
PH companies already offer extended maternity leave with pay
In fact, many companies recognize the rewards of a good maternity benefit. Unilever Philippines already grants up to 150 days of paid maternity leave to its female employees. Its policy also covers new adoptive parents of children less than a year old. Since 2015, Accenture Philippines has paid maternity leave benefit of up to 120 days, back when the approved expanded maternity leave bill was just being introduced in Congress.
In that same year, Nestle also ramped up its paid parental leaves days to 14 weeks with an option to extend (but without pay) for all its companies WORLDWIDE. Shell also has a global policy that provides working mothers with a 16- week (112 days) paid maternity leave.
Reports also seemed to imply that SSS is wary of EML. SSS did not say it is opposed to EML, but it has been vocal about the need to increase contributions to cover the benefits. It's a job we think lawmakers and the government's budget managers can and should manage; coming up with a battle plan to identify funding is what they are appointed for and elected.
You already have companies like those mentioned above that recognize the value of taking care of their employees and their families. The EML has been deliberated in both houses of Congress for a long time. At the end of the day, it's for the benefit of the Filipino people, not just women. After all, moms are raising the future.