Employers’ resistance to expanded maternity leave hinders progress for women in the workplace

March 6, 2019

by IBON Foundation

Research group IBON said that employers’ opposition to the new Expanded Maternity Leave (EML) Law only protects their profits at the expense of women. The EML is an important step to reducing barriers to women’s participation in the workforce and to improving their welfare in the workplace. It is also partial relief amid flexible hiring arrangements including contractualization that deny many women workers job security, just wages and benefits, and safe working conditions.

Republic Act (RA) 11210 extends the paid maternity leave of women employees to 105 days, with the option to extend for another 30 days of unpaid leave. The Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) responded by saying that many employers and especially small businesses will have difficulty complying with the additional costs from implementing the law. ECOP also argued that the law could lead to discrimination in the hiring of women workers and employees.

IBON said that the law improves the support given to working parents, and employers begrudging the extension of maternity leave shows their insensitivity to the welfare of Filipino women workers. IBON also decried ECOP’s thinly veiled threat that employers will hire less women because of the law as Neanderthal thinking. On the contrary, employers should be more open-minded and fully comply with the law to encourage more women to join the workforce.

IBON noted that the labor force participation rate of women is only 46.6% compared to 75.1% for men, according to the 2018 Labor Force Survey (LFS) of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA). The EML is a step towards increasing women’s participation in the workforce. It will also encourage a more equitable division of paid and unpaid work between parents.

IBON however pointed out that women would still face other serious workplace issues. Nearly half or 42% of workers employed in establishments with 20 or more are in various hiring arrangements other than regular, based on 2016 data from the PSA. The group noted that widespread contractualization includes a considerable number of women workers denied maternity leave, among other benefits.

Latest PSA data on decent work statistics also shows that the number of employed women in precarious work (where the nature of employment is short-term or seasonal or casual, or working for different employers on day-to-day or week-to-week basis) has increased by 105.9% from 1.12 million in 1995 to 2.31 million in 2015 and remained that much by 2017.

IBON also noted that wages remain low and stagnant for women. PSA figures for 2017 on the real value of average daily basic pay (ADBP, 2006 prices) of short-term, seasonal and casual workers showed women receiving 6% lower than the national average while men received 3% higher. In addition, the real value of ADBP for women has only increased by 7.9% in the past 16 years from Php184 to Php198, said the group. The national average has increased by 8.9% from Php194 to Php211 over the same period, while the growth rate was higher for men at 9.3% from Php199 to Php218.

Filipino working  women are denied not only job security and low wages but also other much-needed benefits, said the group. They do not receive equal pay for equal work. They either lack or do not enjoy comprehensive health services whether from private firms or the government. Additional social services like daycare to lighten women’s workload are also scarce.

IBON said that ECOP’s response underscore the basic problem of how Filipino workers, particularly women, are exploited and denied just wages and benefits for the profits of a few. The EML law is just a partial step to ensuring the well-being and basic needs of women workers and Filipino workers overall. Women should also be supported with protection against discriminatory pay and publicly-provided daycare and health services, among others.

Among the most important that government can implement to improve workers’ welfare are ending contractualization and substantially raising the national minimum wage. ###