Maternity leave bill bicam targets ratification before Congress recess

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THE Bicameral Conference Committee tasked to reconcile versions of the increased paid maternity leave bill will begin its work on Monday with a target to ratify the bill ahead of the congressional break.

“I’m hoping, I’m hoping (to finish the bicameral conference) because we want it ratified before we go on a break,” Bagong Henerasyon (BH) Representative Bernadette Herrera-Dy, chair of the House Committee on Women and Gender Equality, told BusinessWorld in a phone interview, Sunday.

House Bill 4113 and Senate Bill 1305 both increase the current 60-day paid maternity leave, though they are 20 days apart at 100 days and 120 days, respectively. Both versions also provided an optional 30-day extension without pay.

“We’re going to push for the 100 days because that is what we feel is acceptable to everybody (including the) business sector,” she said.

The House version also limits the grant of the maternity leave benefit only to four deliveries, unlike its Senate counterpart, which proposes to grant the benefit for all pregnancies.

“The business sector requested a limit of four and I agree to that… we’re also encouraging family planning,” she said.

The Senate version also gives pregnant female workers the option to pass on up to 30 days of leave credit to the child’s father or an alternative caregiver.

“If the Senate will insist on it, I have no problems,” Ms. Dy said, adding that the caregiver role is the mother’s choice.

Gabriela Rep. Emmi A. de Jesus, also among the members of the Bicameral Conference Committee, said regardless of what leave provision the final version adopts, the bill in itself is a “big step.”

“Either 100 or 120 is one big step forward from 60 (days) for normal (delivery) and 78 (days) for C-section,” she said.

She said the 120-day leave credit was originally proposed by the Gabriela Women’s Party (GWP) in the 15th Congress, but now the GWP agrees to 100 days which is viewed as more “doable.”

The Senate provision also allows qualified solo parents to avail of 150 days paid maternity leave.

Ms. De Jesus said the provision could be adopted by amending Republic Act 8972, the “Solo Parent Welfare Act,” instead of including it in the maternity leave bill.

“I don’t think (it will be adopted),” Ms. De Jesus said. “But I think it may pass as an amendment of the Solo Parent Act.”

The increased maternity leave bills both grant the benefit to all covered female workers in government, private sector and informal economies, regardless of civil status and legitimacy of the child. The availment of the benefit cannot be deferred and must be used continuously, either before or after the delivery.

Female workers are also protected by the security of tenure provision of the bills, which prohibits employers from terminating or demoting beneficiaries for availing of maternity leave. — Charmaine A. Tadalan