Clarifications on the Expanded Maternity Leave law
BAR NONE - Atty. Ian Vincent Manticajon (The Freeman) - March 5, 2019 - 12:00am

My column last week about the 105-day Expanded Maternity Leave Law (Republic Act 11210) received a reaction from a reader. Since she shared some sensitive information, I’ll name her here as Ms. FE.

Ms. FE cited some confusion regarding the implementation of the law. There is indeed a need to clarify certain matters about the law in the interest of Filipino mothers who are employed, as well as for the information of employers.

Ms. FE wrote that her daughter had just given birth by Caesarean delivery early last month, just a few days before the signing of the Expanded Maternity Leave Act on February 20. The human resource department of her daughter’s employer, a big private company, said her daughter is not covered by the EML law because the law is not retroactive. “When the DOLE secretary was interviewed and a question was asked if the law is retroactive, he said yes,” Ms. FE wrote.

I searched in news websites for statements made by Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III regarding the EML law. There I found out that Bello was merely referring to the retroactivity of the law’s Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) which has yet to be crafted.

Bello has promised to promptly craft the IRR of the law within 45 days after the law’s signing by the president. In the meantime, all those who have given birth after the law has taken into effect but before its IRR has been passed will be covered, Bello said. I hope this clarifies the confusion regarding the period of the law’s implementation.

There is one more point that Ms. FE has validly raised. She said that when the father of her daughter’s child tried to apply for a paternity leave, he was asked to submit a marriage certificate which they do not have since her daughter and the man were not yet married.

“The HR of this government office said that he is not covered,” Ms. FE wrote. “This is the second child. The paternity leave with pay he took last March 2018 for the first child caused a delay in his salary for a month because the HR said it was a mistake because he is not married to the mother of the child and therefore he is not covered,” she said.

Unfortunately, in the case cited by Ms. FE, Republic Act 8187 or the Paternity Leave Act of 1996 indeed applies only to a father who must be legally married to his pregnant wife and is living with her.

I understand that in our conservative society, we put premium on marriage as a social institution central to the preservation of a stable and healthy society. Lawmakers probably wanted to avoid a situation where a philandering man who fathers a child with different women would be granted paid leaves.

However, in the case of fathers who are committed to their partners but for some reason are not yet married to them, they too certainly need to be beside their partner and their child even for just a week of paid leave. They can provide not just moral and physical support, but can also assist in the paperwork for medical bills and other processes.

Fortunately, crafters of the Expanded Maternity Leave Law saw a middle ground by including the following provision in the law: “Any female worker entitled to maternity leave benefits as provided for herein may, at her option, allocate up to seven (7) days of said benefits to the child’s father, whether or not the same is married to the female worker.”

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