POSTSCRIPT / August 1, 2019 / Thursday


Opinion Columnist

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Maternity benefits affect hiring policy

THE NEGATIVE unintended consequence was debated at length before the law (RA 11202) was passed recently to expand paid maternity leave to 105 days, but some employers are reportedly still weighing options on hiring female workers.

The Department of Labor and Employment, the Social Security System, and the Civil Service Commission jointly issued the implementing rules and regulations. The SSS said the benefits are available to eligible employees in the private sector who give birth or suffer miscarriage or emergency termination of pregnancy on or after March 11, 2019.

The hesitation of some employers to hire females was brought to our attention by a lawyer working in the human resources department of a medium-size company. She summarized the reasons for some employers’ dilemma:

The new law gives female employees 105 days of paid maternity leave, with an option to extend it by 30 more days without pay. The SSS will give only a maximum of maternity benefit of around P50,000 for employees who contribute the maximum allowable SSS contribution.

In excess of the SSS benefit, the employer must pay the remaining “salary” of the female employee. For example, if an employee earning P50,000 a month goes on maternity leave, SSS will give around P50,000 of the maternity pay, equivalent to one month’s salary. The remaining days (105 days – 30 days paid by SSS = 75 days) will be paid by the company as if the employee was working.

The employee’s option to extend her maternity leave for 30 more days without pay may not look like adversely affecting the company as it will not pay anything extra, but the firm loses with her being unproductive.

The employee may also avail herself of 60 days of paid leave for gynecological diseases (hysterectomy, myoma, breast cancer), as provided for in the Magna Carta for Women. The company pays for it in full.

The employee may also take 10 days off a year on VAWC leave with pay if she has instituted a Violence Against Women and Children case against her partner or spouse.

If a solo parent, she is entitled to seven days of paid leave a year. (A male employee may also avail himself of this leave if he is a solo parent.)

The service incentive leave (SIL) of five days a year is also with pay if the employee (female or male) works for a firm with more than 10 employees. It could be more if the employer has a collective bargaining agreement giving higher leave benefits or if it gives on its own higher leave credits.

So, if the employee in one year is pregnant and gives birth, has a gynecological disease, is a solo parent and a victim of VAWC, and avails herself of the SIL, she will have a total of at least 187 paid working days for the year! That is almost nine months of a given year! (187 days divided by 22 working days in a month).

This may go higher if the employer has a good leave credit plan. In business process outsourcing firms (BPOs), the VLs and SLs may be as high as 1.25 days VL and 1.25 days SL in a month, which translates to 15-day VL and 15-day SL in a year.

The expanded maternity benefits apply regardless of the worker’s employment status, civil status and legitimacy of her child, and frequency of pregnancy. Female workers with pending administrative cases are entitled to the maternity leave benefits.

The females seem to have that edge over us male workers, but most of the men in my circle think the ladies deserve those privileges in view of the extra burden they carry as working mothers and wives.

 Vaping a substitute for smoking?

MANY of us abhor cigarette smoking mainly because of its noxious effects not only on smokers but also on others. We are happy that smoking has been banned in public places, but what about the substitute smoking or vaping of electronic-cigarettes?

The Department of Health estimates that there are over 16 million adult Filipino smokers. To fight the nicotine scourge, the government is enforcing a nationwide ban on smoking in public places, and pushing for higher tobacco taxes.

In vaping, the smoker inhales a vapor created by an e-cigarette or a similar battery-operated device producing vapors from a cartridge filled with  liquid that usually contains nicotine, flavorings, and chemicals.

Watching e-smokers emitting billows of smoke thicker than cigarette fumes, one may get the impression they are enjoying it. Honestly, we are annoyed by it all, not to mention the possible ill effects on people around them.

Comes now Dr. Lorenzo Mata, a family health specialist, citing statistics in the United Kingdom showing “alternative nicotine delivery systems, such as e-cigarettes” playing a major role in “reducing smoking prevalence and consequently, improving public health.”

He said that statistics show that smoking in England has dropped below 15 percent, bringing the estimated number of smokers in the UK to six million. He did not give comparative figures for the Philippines.

The UK Tobacco and Related Products Regulation, he said, has actively managed smoke-free environments, domestic advertising, domestic sales, and age restrictions, to realize this reduction in the number of smokers.

He added that while prescription medicine, nicotine replacement therapy, counseling, and other treatments point to varying degrees of success in smoking cessation, the role of e-cigarettes in the UK drive for a smoke-free generation has been strengthened through research.

He said a new study by the University College London indicates that smokers are three times more likely to quit smoking by using e-cigarettes instead of other nicotine replacement therapy products. He cited other findings that vaping is 95 percent less harmful than smoking cigarettes.

 Mata urged the DoH to consider the UK statistics so “adult Filipino smokers could be given the opportunity to use less harmful smoking products, which could benefit roughly seven out of 10 tobacco smokers thinking of quitting smoking.”

The UK data notwithstanding, we are not convinced that vaping should be encouraged as substitute for smoking cigarettes.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of August 1, 2019)

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