IndustriALL women in the Philippines participated in a recent public hearing on the proposed law on increasing maternity leave to 120 days.
The hearing was called by the senate of the Philippines committee on women, children, family relations and gender equality. Women from IndustriALL Global Union were invited to participate as representatives of a recognized advocacy organization.
Fourteen people from government agencies, labour, employers, civil society and other stakeholders shared their positions during the hearing. Most speakers expressed their support for longer maternity leave, although the employers confederation said it would have a negative impact on productivity, output and the employability of women.
This argument was countered by government agencies, the civil service commission and the department of trade and industry. However, the social security system cautioned on the effect of the proposal on the Fund’s actuarial life.
IndustriALL Women Philippines emphasized that while the Philippines has always struggled for world class efficiency and global competitiveness, it has the opposite record in matters relating to maternity protection. The Philippines’ maternity benefits law is 24 years old, is not compliant with international standards, particularly ILO Convention 183, and lags behind other countries, including other neighbouring Asian countries.
Government statistics on maternal deaths show a failure to meet the Philippines’ commitment under the millennium development goals. Results from an IndustriALL South East Asia study showing a very minimal impact of increased maternity leave on companies were presented.
IndustriALL Women challenged employers to show their commitment to corporate social responsibility by protecting women before, during and after pregnancy, acknowledging their exclusive role in bearing and breastfeeding the future labour force, future citizens, taxpayers, and legislators.
They stressed that maternity protection should be seen as an investment rather than an expense, since longer maternity leave enables women to fully recover from delivery, and is better for the health of the child. Healthy mothers with healthy babies need not be absent from work. Having a child inspires women to perform better, thus becoming more productive. Happy women will be committed to companies that take care of them and their families.
The proposed 120 days paid maternity leave is due for further debate, with IndustriALL Women one of the participating advocacy organizations. IndustriALL Women is also one of the members of the technical working group that will consolidate the proposals into one bill to be presented for further deliberation.
The IndustriALL Women Philippines proposal includes:
- 120 days paid maternity leave
- prenatal and postnatal combination of maternity leave
- maternity benefits for four deliveries, not limited to the first four childbirths which is currently being implemented
- coverage for all women, including those in the informal economy who are members of government service insurance system or social security system
- protection against loss of employment and against discrimination.