By Paula Cabrera
I don’t think I’ll be able to say this enough. Being a working mom is difficult. It’s challenging. It requires all kinds of efforts – physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual, you name it. Hence, as working mamas, we need all the support we can get. We need all the support we deserve.
I’m not saying that we should be placed on a pedestal compared to all the other employees. The fact that we are moms does not automatically mean we win Best Employee of the Year. Just like the other employees, we have to work hard in order to accomplish our tasks in the office. There are times when we might even have to work extra hard considering that we are struggling with meeting the demands of both our jobs and motherhood. Still, the truth remains that there is an unfathomable strength in us that we should not underestimate – neither should others.
In line with this, it’s good to know what our rights are as working moms. Aside from the basic benefits that labor laws extend to employees, working mamas, like you and me, are entitled to other perks and assistances from our employers.
- Know your company policies. More often than not, companies give benefits beyond what the labor laws mandate. It would be good to familiarize yourself with what your company provides for working moms. Your office might have work from home arrangements, daycares, or more vacation leave benefits, which you can utilize to help you become a better working mom.
- Remember you are entitled to maternity leave benefits. The current law (Republic Act No. 7322) grants a paid daily maternity benefit equivalent to one hundred percent of your present basic salary, allowances and other benefits or the cash equivalent of such benefits for 60 days (for normal delivery) or 78 days (for caesarian delivery). Hopefully, this will soon change as the Expanded Maternity Leave Law has already been signed by the Senate, extending the leave benefits to 120 days, regardless of manner of delivery. Just remember that you need to notify your employer beforehand of the fact of your pregnancy and your estimated date of delivery in order for you to properly claim your maternity leave.
- You have the right to breastfeed in the office. According to Republic Act No. 10028, every establishment should have a lactation station, which should have the necessary equipment and facilities including a lavatory for hand-washing (unless there is an easily-accessible lavatory nearby), refrigeration or appropriate cooling facilities for storing expressed breastmilk, electrical outlets for breast pumps, a small table, comfortable seats, etc., the standards of which shall be defined by the Department of Health. This lactation station should not be inside the toilet. At the same time, the same law provides that breastfeeding employees should be given break intervals in addition to the regular time-off for meals to breastfeed or express milk. These intervals, which shall not be less than a total of 40 minutes for every 8 hour working period and which include the time it takes an employee to get to and from the workplace lactation station, shall be counted as compensable hours worked.
- There’s a Special Leave Benefit Program for Surgical Operations for Gynecological Problems, as mandated in Republic Act No. 9710 (but this is not limited to moms alone). If you’ve rendered continuous aggregate work for at least 6 months for the last 12 months, and you’ve undergone or need to undergo surgery caused by gynecological problems or disorders, then you are entitled to a special leave benefit of 2 months.
- Being a mom should never, in any manner, be a reason for you to be discriminated at work. You are not supposed to be demoted, paid less salaries, be subjected to diminution of benefits, or be subjected to any form of harassment or humiliation by reason of your status as a working mom or by reason of your gender. At the same time, you should not be terminated from your employment by reason of your pregnancy. This has been declared unlawful by the Labor Code, by the Supreme Court (as in Del Monte Philippines, Inc. vs. Lolita Velasco, G.R. No. 153477, 06 March 2007), and by Republic Act No. 10354.
- If you are a solo parent, you are entitled to additional benefits, as provided in Republic Act No. 8972. The term ‘solo parent’ is defined in said law, and if you fall under any of the categories, then you are entitled to flexible work schedule (provided it will not affect productivity and the employer has not requested exemption from the Department of Labor and Employment) and a parental leave of not more than 7 working days (if you have rendered at least 1 year of service with your employer). Also, your employer should not subject you to any form of discrimination.
Whatever our job is and whoever our employer may be, we, working mamas, know in our hearts that we are doing the best we can. There are better days and days when we just want to hide under our blankets. Nevertheless, we don’t quit. We find the fuel to keep going. We appreciate all the support and information we are given, and so, the more we know about our rights as working moms, the better working moms we can be. We don’t need our work or employers to be our enemies. Just the same, we can’t let anyone take advantage of our vulnerabilities as working mamas.
Paula Cabrera is a working mom and a devoted wife. She and her husband are both lawyers who are continuously learning to embrace the joys and pains of both work and parenting. Reading and writing have always been some of her hobbies, and so, despite being busy, she finds time to do both even for just a few minutes everyday. She hopes to be able to be able to reach out to other parents through her short pieces and remind them that they are not alone in the crazy yet fulfilling world of parenting.