100-day maternity leave bill now in House plenary

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 24 2017 08:38 PM

MANILA - The bill proposing 100 days of maternity leave was finally sponsored at the plenary of the House of Representatives Tuesday.

Defending the bill was DIWA Party-list Rep. Emmeline Aglipay Villar. 

Prior to the sponsorship of the bill, Gabriela Party gathered women backing the bill at the lobby of the plenary hall. 

In her speech, Aglipay-Villar expressed the importance of the bill.

"One in ten young Filipino women below the age of twenty has already begun childbearing: 8 percent are already mothers and another 2 percent are pregnant with their first child according to the results of the 2013 National Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS). Of the women who are parents, a substantial number will not have the assistance of a partner: based on a DOH/UP-NIH study in 2011, solo parents comprise 14 to 15 percent of an estimated 94 million Filipinos, thus placing their number at the time at about 13.9 million. Realistically, most of those solo parents will be mothers," she said.

She also said that current laws on maternity leaves fail to cover the crucial period of a baby's life.

"Currently, our laws provide that pregnant women may take a leave of 60 days with pay equivalent to 100% of their basic salary, allowances and other benefits, or 78 days for women who undergo caesarian deliveries. This number, however, fails to fully cover even the first 100 days of the life of a child, a period which is critical to breastfeeding, establishing a bond with the baby, and developing a resistance to chronic diseases such as asthma.The Philippines is one of a shrinking minority of nations providing for less than a minimum fourteen weeks of statutory maternity leave. Among our neighbors in the ASEAN, only Malaysia has a comparably short period of maternity leave," Aglipay-Villar explained.

For Aglipay-Villar, an extended maternity leave would not have that much of an effect on businesses.

"Evidence shows that these parental leave policies do not cause undue interruptions in the workplace. In fact, a body of research finds that these practices can benefit employers by improving their ability to recruit and retain talent, lowering costly worker turnover and minimizing loss of firm-specific skills and human capital, as well as boosting morale and worker productivity. According to a paper published by the White House, following implementation of state programs providing for paid maternity leave, most businesses reported no negative effect on profitability," she said.

House Deputy Speaker Pia S. Cayetano on Tuesday co-sponsored the measure. 

In her co-sponsorship speech delivered in plenary, Cayetano said the proposed "100-day Maternity Leave Law" (HB 4113) will allow women workers in the country to be at par with their counterparts in Southeast Asia, while also keeping up with global standards set by the International Labor Organization (ILO). 

Cayetano noted that the ILO, which recognizes the need to promote equality for women in the workforce and guarantee the health and safety of mother and child, recommends the standard period of maternity leave at not less than ninety eight (98) days.

She said the additional maternity leave credits will accord mothers much-needed extra time to care for and breastfeed their newborn. 

"Studies have shown that the biggest hindrance in successfully breastfeeding one’s baby is going back to work. Thus, longer maternity leave periods encourage exclusive breastfeeding in women," Cayetano said.

Cayetano added that strong maternity leave policies will also be beneficial to employers. 

"A study shows that (the policy) creates a more stable and loyal workforce, including reduced employee turnover and absenteeism, and increased participation of women in the workforce," she explained.

"Through policies like this, we can institutionalize standards that promote the rights of working women and protect them from discrimination… giving them the chance to realize their full potential in service of the nation as envisioned in the Constitution," Cayetano also said.

The following are the benefits of an extended maternity leave to the child:

- Benefits to Infant Health: The most immediate benefits to a mother's presence are felt by her child. Studies have shown a clear positive impact of maternity leave on the health of infants, leading to an increase in average birth weight, a decrease in premature birth, and a decrease in infant mortality.

- Benefits to Breast Feeding: One of the most important reasons why longer maternity leaves lead to healthier children is that maternity leaves increase the likelihood that a woman will be able to breast feed her child.

- Long Term Benefits to Children: All of the aforementioned lead not only to better health for children in the short term, but better prospects in the long term as well. A Norwegian study on the impact on children of increasing maternity leave benefits revealed that the increased time with the child eventually led to a decline in high school dropouts and an increase in average wages at age 30.

Mothers will also benefit from the expanded maternity leave. Examples of these benefits are as follows:

- Breast Feeding Benefits for the Mother: According to the WHO and UNICEF, breast feeding can reduce the risk of breast and ovarian cancers, while fostering a bond between mother and child that can prove to be invaluable mental support when faced with the stress and challenges of parenthood, which can in turn combat any temptation toward abuse or abandonment. New studies also indicate that breast feeding increases the bone density of nursing mothers.

- Less Depression, More Satisfaction: Work-related stress is the primary reason for a parent's experience of work-life conflict, which is in itself is the primary cause of stress for Filipino parents. After all, work problems mean less time with family, and for working mothers in particular, this comes with a deep burden of guilt. In contrast, a study has revealed that women who took longer than 12 weeks maternity leave reported fewer depressive symptoms, a reduction in severe depression and improvement in their overall mental health.

- Mother is More Likely to Return to Work: Researchers have found that access to paid leave increased the likelihood of a new mother returning to her employer which in turn improves the financial outlook of the family by encouraging the mother to return to a prior job, where she is likely to have accrued seniority, salary adjustments, and other benefits that would be lost if she were to start at a brand new job.

- Narrowing of the Gender Pay Gap: There is a much smaller wage gap when women and men first enter the workforce right after college. But, as women move through the workforce, get married, and have children, the gap widens. A woman's childbearing years and peak earning years coincide, and that has a big effect on her earnings. A University of Massachusetts study found that for every child a woman has, her salary decreases by 4% — and that penalty is worse for low-wage workers. But for men, fatherhood increases earnings by more than 6%. Encouraging and facilitating a woman's return to her previous job would help alleviate the gap in earnings caused by a woman being forced to keep starting again from square one. Economists have found that with paid leave, more people take time off, particularly low-income parents who may have taken no leave or dropped out of the work force after the birth. Paid leave raises the probability that mothers return to employment later, and then work more hours and earn higher wages.