Two years after the first proposal was approved in the Senate, the push for the 105-day paid maternity leave comes to a close with a win for all mothers — the Filipino family.
President Rodrigo Duterte finally affixed his signature on the Expanded Maternity Leave (EML) Act on Wednesday, February 20, 2019, a day before it would have lapsed into law, executive secretary Salvador Medialdea said in a tweet by the Philippines News Agency.
During a press briefing in Malacañang today, February 21, 2019, Salvador Panelo, a presidential spokesperson and chief presidential legal counsel secretary, stressed there should be no discrimination in hiring women who are pregnant in the public and private sector because of the anti-discrimination law. "Regardless of the rules and regulations of the companies, they would have to follow the law now," he emphasized.
The new law now puts us on par with international standards
The House of Representatives (HOR) passed House Bill No. 4113, last September 2018, while the Senate passed their version, Senate Bill No. 1305 back in March 2017. The bicameral conference committee convened and finalized the bill last October 2018. It encountered a hiccup due to some "insertions," but it was finally transmitted to the president's office last January 21, 2019.
"The signing into law of the Expanded Maternity Leave Act is a moment mothers, families, and children will not only remember, but a victory generations of Filipinos will reap the benefits of for the rest of their lives," Senator Risa Hontiveros, an author and proponent of the bill, said via a statement posted on Facebook.
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"Now, mothers will have more time to rest from pregnancy. Children will be better fed. Fathers and caregivers can bond and create more lasting memories with their loved ones, as families everywhere receive the greatest gift of all time."
What are the benefits of the Expanded Maternity Leave (EML) Act
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The EML, or Republic Act No. 11210, now provides 105 paid leave days to all working new mothers both in the government and private sector regardless of the number of pregnancies they've had or how they gave birth and irrespective of marital status.
According to the final version released in the afternoon of February 21, 2019, however, for cases of miscarriage or emergency termination of pregnancy, the femaler workers will still only receive 60 days of maternity leave with full pay.
Seven days out of the 105 paid leave days may be transferred to new fathers. That’s on top of new dads' seven-day leave that's already mandated by the Paternity Leave Act, which can only be claimed by new dads who are married and are living with the new mom and their newborn child.
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Single moms who qualify under The Solo Parents' Act also get an additional 15-day paid leave days under the EML law. All new moms have the option to extend their maternity leave for 30 more days but without pay under the new law provided they provide due notice 45 days before their maternity leave ends.
Employers that refuse to comply with the new law will be slapped a hefty fine of "not less than Php20,000 nor more than Php200,000 and imprisonment of not less than six years and one day or more than 12 years or both," as stated in the final version.
EML will take effect 15 days after publication in the Official Gazette, the official journal of the government, or in at least two national newspapers of general circulation.
Longer maternity leave gives new moms more time to focus on their postpartum care and recovery, establish breastfeeding and care for the newborn baby, and give them ample time to arrange for caregivers before going back to work.
Many private companies are already providing more than what the previous law mandated. It's about time for all moms to receive the benefits of having an extended maternity leave with pay.
UPDATE: This article was updated on 5:58 p.m. to reflect the change in the Expanded Maternity Leave Act's final version released by the Office of the President regarding the maternity leave pay for women who had a miscarriage or emergency termination of pregnancy and penalties for employers who will refuse to comply.