Economics versus labor standard

OFF TANGENT - Aven Piramide (The Freeman) - February 24, 2019 - 12:00am

President Rodrigo Duterte signed into a law, last Thursday, a measure expanding maternity leave to 105 days. This means that a lady employee has, on account of pregnancy and childbirth, a paid leave of absence of more than three months. Within this period, she does not work, yet she still gets paid. This brings a windfall of benefits to women workers considering the old legal order only gave nursing mothers two months paid leave.


I do not yet have a copy of this new law. So what little I know of it isn’t a product of my own reading. My knowledge only comes from the ideas newsmen reported from interviews with legislators responsible for its crafting and as such it is only a say-so (or is it says who?) and admittedly hearsay. Even then, of the issues substantially covered by reporters, the aspect of discrimination attracted me rather uneasily. On television, a lady senator said the law sanctions employers who discriminate against hiring women. As I understood her, she meant that a would-be employer should not choose a male worker over a female applicant simply because of the possibility that a woman employee may, by reason of bearing her child, still be paid even if not actually working for three months.

In Constitutional law, there is such a thing as class legislation where, paradoxically speaking, there may be legally permissible discrimination. The act expanding maternity leave benefits may meet the requirements of class legislation. A revisit of the old case of People versus Cayat, may help erase doubt. But out of the abundance of caution, I look at this issue of discrimination in the off-tangent nature of this column more than in its supposed legislative conception as acceptable class legislation.

I say that in promoting the interest of women workers there is already some discrimination. It is a discrimination against male jobbers. Here is a realistic example. M (man) and F (woman) compete for a job that can be done by either sex. It is natural for the employer to consider that in hiring a woman, he can expect the employee can become pregnant. He figures the salary he has to pay for F who does not contribute to the productive effort of the company. In that configuration, the natural temptation is for him to hire M and, in the process, discriminate against the woman. The sanction poised against him by law supposedly levels the employment field.

Looking further ahead in time, this new law is likely to prejudice women eventually and the culprit is economics. People engage in business to earn profit. That is the immutable rule. They hire employees to increase productivity. It is inevitable they will find it favorable to hire men to do a job that can also be done by women. When they employ women, they face the chance of their workers getting pregnant and giving birth and when that happens they lose a worker for three months yet still pay her. They will not suffer this if they hire men. We must accept that this is a huge factor in hiring employees. If company policies in the future are written to accommodate men rather than women these are but implicit admission that there are labor standards that appear especially correct, but economically difficult to manage.


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