THE vice chairman of the House Committee on Health has recently filed a bill seeking to increase maternity leave from two months to four months.
In House Bill 6294, Liberal Party Rep. Alfredo D. Vargas III of Quezon City said that his proposal aims to reduce child mortality and improve maternal health.
Vargas, who is also the vice chairman of the House Committee on Social Services, said that recent studies have shown that extending maternity leave for new mothers reduces infant mortality.
“The cause is yet to be known, but it may be linked to longer periods of breast feeding and better health care. Extended paid maturity leave may also improve maternal health, as it lessens the likelihood of miscarriage and complications,” the lawmaker said in a news statement.
Under the proposal, every employer shall grant to any pregnant employee, who has rendered an aggregate service of at least six months for the last 12 months, maternity leave of at least two weeks prior to the expected date of delivery and another 14 weeks after normal or caesarian delivery, with full pay based on her regular or average weekly wages.
The bill amends for the purpose Presidential Decree (PD) 442, otherwise known as The Labor Code of the Philippines, as amended by Republic Act 7322.
Moreover, according to Vargas, increasing the present maternity leave would protect the right of the working mothers and their infants to proper health care.
“According to the Fifth Philippine Progress Report on the MDGs [Millennium Development Goals], the Philippines has a high probability of achieving the 2015 target of reducing the mortality rate of children in 2011,” Vargas said.
Citing the report, Vargas added that in 2011 the Philippines recorded a child-mortality rate of 30 out of 1,000 live births, which is not far from the 2015 target of 26.7.
It also disclosed that infant-mortality rate also decreased from 57 per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 22 per 1,000 live births in 2011. The 2015 target is 19.
“However, it is feared that the Philippines will not meet its MDG target on maternal health as the maternal mortality ratio increased from 209 deaths per 100,000 live births in 1990 to 221 deaths in 2011, a far cry from the 2015 target of 52,” Vargas said.
The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said that the maternity-leave benefit applies to all female employees, whether married or unmarried.
Currently, the DOLE said that every pregnant employee in the private sector, whether married or unmarried, is entitled to maternity leave benefit of 60 days in case of normal delivery or miscarriage, or 78 days, in case of Caesarian section delivery, with benefits equivalent to 100 percent of the average daily salary credit of the employee as defined under the law.
However, the agency said that to be entitled to the maternity leave benefit, a female employee should be an Social Security System (SSS) member employed at the time of her delivery or miscarriage.