[Philippines] Expanded maternity leave law impacts SSS payouts

Expanded maternity leave law, granting mothers a minimum of 105 days of leave, has led to a 16 per cent rise in maternity benefit payouts, Inquirer Business reports.

The Social Security System (SSS) expects a further rise in maternity benefit payouts this year as the expanded maternity leave law continues to have an impact. The state-run pension fund said in a statement that disbursements for maternity benefits totalled P7.1billion last year. A rise of 16 per cent from 2017 when the total was P6.1billion.

More than 326,000 qualifying women took advantage of this benefit in 2018. SSS’s president and chief executive Aurora C. Ignacio said, “We are glad that we are able to assist more of our female members financially during their pregnancy in 2018. We have recorded an increase of 12.6 per cent or 36,550 female members more who availed themselves of the benefit in 2018 compared to that of the previous year.”

Latest SSS data demonstrate that P1.3billion was paid out to more than 62,000 female member-beneficiaries in the first two months of 2019 alone. Ms Ignacio said, “We are expecting that these disbursements will continue to increase this year following the implementation of the 105-day Expanded Maternity Leave Law with the implementing rules and regulations already signed on Labor Day,”

Before the changes, maternity leave credits had covered 60-78 days for normal childbirth and cesarean delivery, respectively. The new maternity law - signed by President Rodrigo R. Duterte in February - gave the option to add 30 more days unpaid maternity leave to the existing 105 days paid leave.

Lone mothers have the additional benefit of another 15 days of leave, while women who experienced a miscarriage or emergency termination are allowed 60 days of paid leave.

The expanded maternity benefit - which is not compromised by the frequency of deliveries or miscarriage - raised financial assistance maximums to P70,000 (based on the monthly salary credit of P20,000) from its previous rate of P32,000.

Ms Ignacio said, “The SSS is motivated to continuously develop its benefit programs to provide more meaningful assistance to its members. We recognize the needs of mothers and their newborn babies. We hope that through the Extended Maternity Leave Law, women workers may be able to fully enjoy their rights to health and decent work.”

The cost of these changes to the SSS will be an additional P7.5 billion annually. Since April the monthly contribution rate to the pension fund rose from 11 to 12 per cent, as mandated under the Social Security Act of 2018.