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‘Longer maternity leaves means PH firms need contingency plans’

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A newly enacted maternity leave act in the Philippines should prompt companies to pay attention to their business continuity plans. TED ALJIBE/AFP

‘Longer maternity leaves means PH firms need contingency plans’

The Philippines’ newly enacted Expanded Maternity Leave Act, which grants mothers over three months of paid leave, should prompt companies to pay close attention to their business continuity plan, especially if their employees are looking to raise a family soon.

P&A Grant Thornton, one of the top five auditing firms in the Philippines, gave this advice to businesses in light of the implementation of Republic Act No 11210 or the Expanded Maternity Leave Act.

The law, signed by President Rodrigo Duterte earlier this year, requires all organisations, whether in public or private sector, to give mothers 105 days of paid maternity leave.

The expanded benefits apply to every case of pregnancy, with employers required to grant it to their female employees regardless of employment status, civil status, mode of delivery, and the child’s legitimacy.

The Philippines is moving along other countries around the world in legislating longer paid maternity leaves. While the sentiments behind the new policy may be well-meaning, there may be a downside to longer parental leaves, said Mai Sigue-Bisnar, partner in the audit and assurance division of P&A Grant Thornton.

She cited a survey of the Employers Confederation of the Philippines, which revealed that 68 to 70 per cent of respondents were concerned with the higher cost implications of doing business in the country.

Aside from paid leave and health insurance, these costs include the overtime pay and health costs of colleagues who shoulder the additional work, along with the professional fees of any project hires.

If the mother is difficult to temporarily replace, the workplace effects could be more substantial, the survey shows. Small businesses bear the brunt, as they may lack the human capital or financial resources to shoulder the long-term absence of female employees.

In the long term, extended maternity leaves could also hurt the careers of mothers.

“Evidence from countries that mandate extended maternity leaves reveals that the longer new mothers are away from paid work, the less likely they are to be promoted, move into management, or receive a pay raise when their leave ends,” Sigue-Bisnar added, citing research from the Harvard Business Review.

“The new mothers are also at greater risk of being fired or demoted.”

New mothers are also perceived as less committed to their jobs than women who take much shorter maternity leaves, she added.

However, Sigue-Bisnar believes that an expanded maternity leave can be a win-win situation for both employers and employees.

These contingency measures include a scheme where the mother on leave is paired with a co-worker who can keep her updated on projects, clients, and work matters. New mothers should also be allowed to work from home and with more flexible hours to help ramp up productivity.

New fathers should likewise be encouraged to avail of their paternal leaves. While this appears counterintuitive, it can help reduce the length of time women are absent from work. PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

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