Motherhood is a gift and the ability of a woman to endure pregnancy is a miracle that has perplexed even the scientific minds. However, behind this wonderful gift is a painful reality that women worldwide have to endure in the workplace. Discrimination, lack of support and adherence to archaic chauvinistic policies have made it difficult for women to balance their pregnancy with work obligations.
However, women empowerment has taken great strides not only in society but also in laws. No less than Section 14 of Article XIII of the Philippine Constitution mandates that the State shall protect working women through provisions for opportunities that would enable them to reach their full potential. Thus, legislations were enacted to effectuate this thrust.
Prohibition on Discrimination Against Pregnant Women in the Workplace
Section 13 of Republic Act No. 7910, otherwise known as the Magna Carta of Women, prohibits the expulsion and non-readmission of women students and faculty due to pregnancy outside of marriage. Under Section 23 of Republic Act 10354, otherwise known as the Reproductive Health Act of 2012, pregnancy or the number of children shall not be a ground for non-hiring or termination from employment. Violation of which is punishable by imprisonment ranging from one (1) month to six (6) months or a fine of Ten thousand pesos (P10,000.00) to One hundred thousand pesos (P100,000.00), or both such fine and imprisonment.
To equalize gender imbalances in the workplace, Republic Act No. 10151, otherwise known as the Night Workers Act, repealed the provisions of the Labor Code which prohibited women from working from 10 p.m to 6 a.m. Furthermore, the said law mandates that measures shall be taken to ensure that an alternative to night work is available to women workers who would otherwise be called upon to perform such work before and after childbirth, for a period of at least sixteen (16) weeks, which shall be divided between the time before and after childbirth. During such period, a woman worker shall not be dismissed or given notice of dismissal, except for just or authorized causes that are not connected with pregnancy, childbirth and childcare responsibilities. In addition, the woman worker shall not lose her status, seniority, and access to promotion. However, pregnant women may be allowed to work at night only if a competent physician, other than the company physician, shall certify their fitness to render night work, and specify, in the case of pregnant employees, the period of the pregnancy that they can safely work.
Republic Act No. 8282 or the Social Security Law states that a female employee who has paid at least three (3) monthly contributions in the twelve-month period immediately preceding the semester of her birth to the Social Security System (“SSS”) shall be paid a daily maternity benefit equivalent to one hundred percent (100%) of her average salary credit for sixty (60) days or seventy-eight (78) days in case of caesarean delivery subject to the following conditions:
a. That the employee shall have notified her employer of her pregnancy and the probable date of her childbirth, which notice shall be transmitted to the SSS in accordance with the rules and regulations it may provide;
b. The full payment shall be advanced by the employer within thirty (30) days from the filing of the maternity leave application;
c. That payment of daily maternity benefits shall be a bar to the recovery of sickness benefits provided by this Act for the same period for which daily maternity benefits have been received;
d. That the maternity benefits provided under this section shall be paid only for the first four (4) deliveries or miscarriages;
e. That the SSS shall immediately reimburse the employer of one hundred percent (100%) of the amount of maternity benefits advanced to the employee by the employer upon receipt of satisfactory proof of such payment and legality thereof; and
f. That if an employee member should give birth or suffer miscarriage without the required contributions having been remitted for her by her employer to the SSS, or without the latter having been previously notified by the employer of the time of the pregnancy, the employer shall pay to the SSS damages equivalent to the benefits which said employee member would otherwise have been entitled to.
It should be noted that maternity leave is available for all female employees regardless of whether she is married or not.
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