Solo parents are those who are left alone with the responsibility of rearing their children regardless of marital status, and based on National Statistics Office (NSO) data, there are about 14 million solo parents in the Philippines. The increasing number of solo parents has led the national government to pass Republic Act 8972, or the Solo Parents’ Welfare Act of 2000, which was promulgated on November 7, 2000. While being a solo parent can be difficult, the passage of RA 8972 has somehow made it rewarding.
RA 8972 was enacted to provide a comprehensive program of services for solo parents and their children. This law covers fathers or mothers who raise their children by themselves, either because of the death of a spouse, abandonment, separation, or even those who have children as a result of rape. This law also considers as a solo parent those who are left to care for children not their own, such as nephews, nieces, or godchildren. So long as you are a person solely responsible for the upbringing of a child, you are considered a solo parent under this Act.
Under RA 8972, people who are eligible for the said benefits should get a solo-parent ID to be able to claim the said benefits. To get a solo-parent ID, they should present the following documents to their local Social Welfare and Development Office: (1) Barangay certification certifying solo parent’s residency in the barangay for the last six months and (2) Income-tax return or any document that will establish the income level of the solo parent. Once the social workers have received and verified the documents presented, they will be given a case number in the logbook of Registry of Solo Parents. Once it’s completed, they will give the applicant a solo-parent ID, which is valid for a year and renewable.
With the help of RA 8972, solo parent employees, who are solely taking care of their children can reap the exclusive benefits provided by the government. Section 7 of RA 8972 mandates that no employer shall discriminate against any solo-parent employee with respect to terms and conditions of employment on account of his/her status. Thus, employers of solo-parent employees should be guided by the employment-related benefits available to all solo parents, such as:
(1) Flexible work schedule. This refers to the right of a solo-parent employee to vary his/her arrival and departure time without affecting the core work hours as defined by the employer.
The employer shall provide for a flexible working schedule for solo-parents, as long as it shall not affect individual and company productivity.
(2) No work discrimination. Employers are prohibited from discriminating against any solo-parent employee with respect to terms and conditions of employment on account of his/her status.
(3) Parental leave. “Parental leave” means leave benefits granted to a solo parent to enable him/her to perform parental duties and responsibilities where physical presence is required. In addition to leave privileges
under existing laws, parental leave of not more than seven working days every year shall be granted to any solo-parent employee who has rendered services for at least one year with full pay, consisting of basic
salary and mandatory allowances.
In order to benefit from the “parental leave,” a solo-parent employee should have rendered at least one year of service, whether continuous or broken. In addition, the employee should notify her or his employer that she or he will avail herself/himself of the leave within a reasonable period of time. Finally, the solo-parent employee must present to the employer his or her Solo Parent Identification Card. A solo-parent employee should remember that “parental leave” is not convertible to cash if not availed of.
Clearly, being a solo parent is indeed rewarding, where one enjoys such perks and privileges. The question now is, what is the effect if an employer refuses to afford the solo-parent employee such benefit? Other than the remedy provided by the Labor Code of the Philippines for failure of an employer to observe labor standards benefits of a solo-parent employee, RA 8972 and its implementing rules and regulations do not provide penalty clauses in case the employer refuses, without justifiable reasons, to observe the mandates of the law on solo-parent employee benefits.It now appears that RA 8972 has no tooth at all that would compel employers to strictly comply with the directives of RA 8972. Thus, I am of the opinion that there is a need to revisit and amend RA 8972 to enforce criminal liabilities on employers who fail to comply with the same.
As a final note, we should be applauding solo parents in our community and asking how we can support them better as they seek to fight for a better life for themselves and their children. They are truly an inspiration to society.