After more than two decades and several failed attempts, the bicameral committee finally approved draft legislation increasing the paid maternity leave benefit for working women. To be called the “105-Day Expanded Maternity Leave Law” if enacted, it will amend Republic Act No. 7322 of 1992, which at present entitles mothers to paid leave of 60 days for normal delivery or 78 days for caesarian section delivery.
The draft stresses that the State recognizes women’s maternal functions as a social responsibility and seeks to uphold women’s rights to health and decent work. Accordingly, the legislation intends to grant women ample time to regain their overall wellness, as well as time to nurture their newborn before resuming work.
The draft stipulates that maternity leave shall be granted to female employees in every instance of pregnancy, miscarriage or emergency termination of pregnancy, regardless of frequency. This means that the maternity benefit shall be provided with no limit on the number of pregnancies or miscarriages – a definite improvement from Republic Act No. 8282 or the Social Security Law which only provides paid maternity leave for the first four deliveries or miscarriages.
Female employees in the government sector and private sector, with or without pending administrative cases, including voluntary members of the Social Security System (SSS) in the informal economy shall be covered by the Act regardless of civil status and legitimacy of the child.
Maternity leave period shall be increased to 105 days with full pay for both normal and caesarian section delivery. Solo parents, as defined under Republic Act No. 8972 or the “Solo Welfare Act,” shall be entitled to additional paid leave of 15 days. However, the existing maternity leave period of 60 days with full pay shall continue to apply in cases of miscarriage or emergency termination of pregnancy. In addition to the standard number of leave credits, the leave can be extended at the option of the employee by up to 30 days but without pay. The employee, however, must notify her employer of the extension, in writing, at least 45 days before the end of her maternity leave. In case of medical emergency, no prior notice is necessary but subsequent notice shall be given advising the employer of the employee’s health condition.
Leave of up to seven days can be allocated to the father of the child, whether or not he is married to the female employee. In case of death, absence, or incapacity of the father, the allocated days may be assigned to an alternate caregiver who must be a relative up to the fourth degree of consanguinity or the current partner of the employee. In order to allocate the leave credits, written notice must be submitted to both employers of the female employee and alternate caregiver. In case the female employee dies or is permanently incapacitated, the balance of the unused maternity leave shall accrue to the father of the child or to the alternate caregiver.
In availing the maternity leave, the legislation emphasizes that postnatal leave should not be less than 60 days.
By law, the SSS pays the daily maternity benefit of the employee computed based on the employee’s average monthly salary credit. In addition, SSS members and non-members can avail of the maternity benefits covering health care services from the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) provided that they have complied with its membership rules and benefit requirements.
In order for SSS members to be eligible to claim maternity benefit, the employee should have paid at least three monthly contributions in the 12-month period immediately preceding the semester of delivery, miscarriage, or emergency termination of pregnancy. Also, the employee should have notified her employer of her pregnancy so that the SSS can also be notified by the employer accordingly. In cases where the employer failed to remit the required contributions of the employee to the SSS or the employer has failed to notify the SSS of the pregnancy, the employer shall pay damages to the SSS equivalent to the benefit which the employee would otherwise have been entitled to.
In addition, it provides that the paid maternity leave shall be exempt from income tax. This means that the entire pay to be received by the employee during her maternity leave will soon be tax-free, compared to the existing exemption under Section 32(B) of the Tax Code which only covers benefits received from the SSS.
Furthermore, the legislation protects women from employment discrimination, as well as provides security of tenure for those who avail of the benefit. Maternity leave shall not be used as basis for demotion or termination of female employees. However, parallel transfer or reassignment from one unit to another shall be allowed so long as it does not involve a reduction in rank, status, salary, or otherwise amount to constructive dismissal.
To add teeth to its provisions, it imposes penalties for non-compliance. Violators shall be punished by a fine ranging from P20,000 to P200,000, or imprisonment of six years and one day up to a maximum of 12 years, or both. Last but not least, non-compliance shall also be a ground for non-renewal of the employer’s business permit.
It is with high hopes that we await the legislation’s signing into law soon. Since the Constitution recognizes the Filipino family as the foundation of the nation, it is essential that mothers, who are considered the life-giver and light of the family, be cared for and protected.
The views or opinions in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Isla Lipana & Co. The content is for general information purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for specific advice.
Janeth A. Parcon is a manager at the Tax Services Department of Isla Lipana & Co., the Philippine member firm of the PwC network.