Senate OKs expanded maternity leave, speech pathology act on 3rd reading

MANILA — The Senate on Monday approved on third and final reading a bill which seeks to expand the maternity leave to 120 days with 22 affirmative votes and zero negative votes.

Under Senate Bill No. 1305, or the “Expanded Maternity Leave Law of 2017”, all female workers regardless of civil status or legitimacy of her child shall be granted 120 days maternity leave with pay and an option to extend for another 30 days without pay.

Meanwhile, solo parents shall be granted a total of 150 days maternity leave with pay. The measure also grants fathers 30 days leave, who under Republic Act 7322, are granted only seven days of paid leave.

Thirty days of the proposed 120 day maternity leave are transferrable to alternate caregivers such as the spouse, common-law partner, and relative up to the fourth degree of consanguinity, including adoptive parents.

Violators of the proposed law would be penalized with a fine not less than PHP5,000 nor not more than PHP20,000 and imprisonment for not less than six years and one day nor not more than 12 years or both.

The bill was authored and sponsored by Senator Risa Hontiveros, chair of the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality, and Senator Juan Edgardo Angara.

It was also co-authored by Senators Francis Pangilinan, Loren Legarda, Nancy Binay, Manny Pacquiao and Antonio Trillanes IV, with Legarda and Binay as the bill’s co-sponsors.

Hontiveros said the measure would bring the country closer to compliance with the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) standards on maternity protection, a field where Philippine law is alarmingly inadequate.

The Philippine maternity leave law only provides 60 days paid leave which is five weeks short of the minimum prescribed under the International Labor Organization’s Convention 183 which mandates a minimum of 98 days maternity leave.

Aside from the expanded maternity leave measure, the Senate also approved on third and final reading a measure which seeks to regulate and professionalize speech language pathology in the country.

With 20 affirmative votes, the Senate approved Senate Bill No. 462, or the Speech Language Pathology Act of 2016 is meant to align the regulatory framework for speech language pathology with the current international standards of practice.

The bill seeks the creation of a new government body, the Speech Language Pathology Board which “shall supervise and regulate the registration, licensure and practice of speech language pathology in the Philippines.”

The board shall be composed of a chairperson, who shall hold office for three years and two members, who shall hold office for one year and two years, respectively, after their appointment by the President.

It will also create a “mechanism for licensure and registration of speech language pathologists.”

Applicants for the practice of speech language pathology shall be required to undergo a licensure examination given by the Board and must obtain a general average of 75 percent with no grade lower than 50 percent in any subject to qualify.

The bill was authored and sponsored by Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, chair of the Senate Committee on Civil Service and Government Reorganization. Sen. Risa Hontiveros is a co-author of the measure, while Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara has earlier submitted another version of the bill.

Trillanes said that the bill will uplift the standards and push for the development of pathology through a regulatory framework that “fosters continuing professional growth.”

He said that while speech language pathology was first offered in the country in 1978, “at present it has not been officially recognized by the country as a profession and is not properly regulated by the government.”