Published 7 June 2019, The Daily Tribune

Just February of this year, the President signed into law Republic Act No. 11210, otherwise known as the “105-Day Expanded Maternity Leave Law”, which increases additional benefits to our working women in both government and private sectors alike. On May 1, 2019, Labor Day, the Secretary of Labor and Employment signed the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) for the Expanded Maternity Leave Act.

It is said that the new law addresses our lack of maternity leave days and “puts us at par with international standards.” What is the international standard on the amount of maternity leave accorded to the working women?

Astonishingly, in more developed countries, per a 2018 CNN Report, paid maternity leaves go as long as 59 weeks (1 year, 2 months and 3 weeks) in Bulgaria, 42 weeks (10 and a half months) in Greece, 39 weeks (9 months and 3 weeks) in United Kingdom, and 34 weeks (8 and a half months)  in Slovakia, to name a few.

Under the Maternity Protection Convention, 2000 (No. 183) of the International Labor Organization (to which Philippines is a member), working women are entitled to at least 14 weeks (that is three and a half months) of paid maternity leave to ensure that they can maintain themselves and their child in proper conditions of health and with a suitable standard of living.

Under the previous law on maternity leave, working mothers were then entitled to a 60-day (9 weeks) paid maternity leave in case of normal deliveries and 78-day (11 weeks and 1 day) paid maternity leave in case of caesarean deliveries.

Under the new measure, the following are the key additional benefits accorded to our working mothers:

  • Regardless of the mode of child delivery (natural or caesarean) and the civil status or legitimacy of the child, the working mother shall be given one hundred five (105) days (15 weeks) maternity leave with full pay and an option to extend for an additional thirty (30) days without pay. When availing themselves of the additional thirty (30) days, the employee must send her employer written notice within forty-five (45) days before the end of her maternity leave;
  • Additional fifteen (15) days maternity leave with full pay, should the working mother qualify as a solo parent under the Solo Parents’ Welfare Act;
  • Sixty (60) days paid maternity leave in cases of miscarriages or emergency terminations of pregnancy;
  • Allocation or transfer of up to seven (7) days of the working mother’s benefits to the child’s father, whether or not the father is married to the female worker;
  • In case of death, absence or incapacity of the child’s father, allocation or transfer of up to seven (7) days of the working mother’s benefits to an alternate caregiver who may be a relative within the fourth degree of consanguinity or the current partner of the female worker sharing the same household; provided that a written notice is given to the employers of the female worker and alternate caregiver.

Maternity leave shall be granted to a qualified female worker in every instance of pregnancy, miscarriage or emergency termination of pregnancy, regardless of frequency. This provision removed the four-pregnancy cap under the previous law.

Also, notably, under the IRR, maternity leave with full pay shall be granted even if the childbirth, miscarriage, or emergency termination of pregnancy occurs not more than fifteen (15) calendar days after the termination of the employee’s service, as her right thereto has already accrued. The period of “not more than fifteen (15) calendar days” shall not apply, however, if the employee is terminated without just cause, in which case, the employer will pay her the full amount equivalent to her salary for one hundred five (105) days for childbirth and sixty (60) days for miscarriage or emergency.

As added protection to our female working force who avails  herself of the above benefits, the new law likewise guarantees security of tenure and non-discrimination. Hence, the availment of benefits under the new law cannot be used as basis for the female worker’s demotion or termination. Further, it is likewise expressly provided under the law that no employer, whether in the government or private sector, shall discriminate against the employment of women in order to avoid the benefits accorded therein.

Civil and criminal liabilities await those who fail or refuse to comply with the provisions of the new law. A fine of not less than Php20,000.00 nor more than Php200,000.00 and imprisonment of not less than six (6) years and one (1) day nor more than twelve (12) years, or both, may be imposed.

The new Expanded Maternity Leave Act took effect on March 11, 2019. Consequently, all working mothers who have delivered live births, or experienced miscarriages or emergency terminations on March 11, 2019 shall be entitled to the benefits under the new law.

Indeed, the new law fosters enhanced empowerment for our working women. May the foregoing information on this new statute, however, empower not only women, but everyone in the working field.

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