Workplace discrimination? Business groups warn against expanded maternity leave

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 5) — Several business organizations have expressed misgivings that Congress' move to extend maternity leave may result in workplace discrimination for women.

This came after both the Senate and House of Representatives ratified the bicameral conference report on the expanded maternity leave Wednesday.

The Employers' Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) earlier cautioned that the bill may not be totally beneficial for women as companies may shy away from hiring them in the long run.

Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) President Alegria Simbal-Limjoco said Friday that while the bill has its own benefits, companies, particularly the small and medium enterprises, may be hugely affected by the measure.

"Right now we want to keep our organizations lean. We have to employ only the people that we feel that we need," said Limjoco, who is also a mother.

"First of all even in office spaces, the rentals are going up so we have to be selective in getting our staff and here in the Philippines, we do multi-tasking," she added.

Women's rights groups and advocates, however, have blasted these sentiments. 

In a statement, the Gabriela Women's Party said that ECOP's report attempts to "blackmail a very positive measure." It added that gender-based discrimination in hiring violates the Magna Carta of Women and International conventions.


Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III also shrugged off the ECOP report.

"That's too much of an imagination. You employ people for their competence and the relevance of their work and not because of their sex, di ba (right)?" Bello said.

The Expanded Maternity Leave Bill raises to 105 days the paid maternity leave for women employed in both the public and private sectors. It also provides the option to extend the leave for another 30 days, but without pay.

Single mothers may also ask for an additional 15 days leave, according to the bill.

CNN Philippines Correspondent Triciah Terada contributed to this report.