“A woman is the full circle. Within her is the power to create, nurture, and transform.” This quote from author Diane Mariechild epitomizes what a woman truly is—one who takes care of, feeds, helps develop, and protects someone or something.
As we celebrate March as the International Women’s Month, we realize that a woman’s role has transcended her conventional role over time and generations. Women are now at par with the social and legal rights given to our male counterparts.
The Philippines is one of the most gender-equal countries in the world for the past years, with the 2020 Global Gender Gap report of the World Economic Forum ranking the Philippines No. 16 among 153 countries surveyed.
At present, there are about 111 million Filipinos, of whom 49.9 percent are women. Their presence and impact in various sectors of our society can be felt significantly, as we encounter them not only in the academe but also in business, economy, health, labor, military, and political sectors.
A basic tenet at the Social Security System, as a state pension fund, is to uphold the rights and benefits of women. Among the seven benefits under the Social Security program that SSS offers, Maternity Benefit is solely dedicated to our female members who had undergone childbirth, or sadly, miscarriage.
What is the maternity benefit? It is a cash allowance granted only to female SSS members. To qualify, she should have paid at least three monthly contributions within the 12-month period immediately preceding the semester of her childbirth, miscarriage or emergency termination of pregnancy. For employed members, it is a requirement that a member should notify her employer once she learned of her pregnancy. However, for self-employed, voluntary and overseas Filipino workers, they may submit their Maternity Notifications via the My.SSS found on the SSS web site or through the SSS Mobile App. On the other hand, for employed members, the maternity notification can be submitted by their Employer through the latter’s My.SSS account in the SSS web site.
The 105-Day Expanded Maternity Leave Law implemented on March 11, 2019 provided an important milestone to all our SSS female members since the law increases the compensable number of days of maternity leave benefit from the initial 60 days for normal delivery, or 78 days for caesarian section delivery, to 105 days for live childbirth, regardless of the type of delivery, and an additional 15 days paid leave if the female worker qualifies as a solo parent. In case of a miscarriage or an emergency termination of pregnancy, the entitlement is 60 days of paid maternity leave. It also gave additional consideration to our women as it further expands maternity leave to every instance of pregnancy, miscarriage, or emergency termination of pregnancy, regardless of frequency, from the previous limit of the first four deliveries or miscarriages.
A female worker entitled to maternity leave benefit may, at her option, allocate up to seven days of the paid leave to the child’s father, in addition to the benefits granted to him under the Paternity Leave Act of 1996 (if applicable), whether or not he is married to the female worker. In case of death, absence, or incapacity of the father, the benefit may be allocated to an alternate caregiver, who may be a relative within the fourth civil degree of consanguinity or the current partner of the female worker sharing the same household.
This generous benefit package only shows that SSS cares for its female members since we know that childbirth is one of the most difficult processes any woman will experience in her life aside from being a mother, which is a 24-hour-seven-day-a-week occupation.
For the record, from January to December 2020, SSS has disbursed P10.49 billion to around 290,000 female members who availed themselves of the benefit. Amid the pandemic, SSS is still their shoulder to lean on for this type of contingency, aside from sickness, disability, unemployment, retirement, death and funeral benefits.
We should celebrate the incredible women in our world—our mothers, grandmothers, wives, daughters, girlfriends, and sisters in whatever color, nationality, race, or ethnicity—not only this month, but in all the days of the year.
Salute to all women in the world!
Aurora C. Ignacio is SSS president and chief executive officer.
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