Out of the 43.7 million Filipinos in the labor force, 38.4% are women. Gone are the patriarchal norms that kept women chained at home, as the norms that exist today allow women to build careers for themselves if they want to.
That’s not to say, however, that sexism and gender discrimination does not exist in all workplace, nor does it cancel out the fact that women have special needs. Given that working women spend at least nine hours in the office, it’s a given that women want to feel safe and secure where they work. Unknown to many women, however, there are several laws that protect them, their security, and their health, within the workplace.
The Magna Carta of Women
The Republic Act 9710, more commonly known as the Magna Carta of Women, was signed into law in 2009 by former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. This is a comprehensive women’s rights law that “seeks to uphold the rights of Filipinas,” especially those in the marginalized sectors. Some of the laws created to protect Filipinas include:
- Protection from violence, including gender-based violence and violence committed by the State
- Protection from sexual exploitation
- Equality by having the right to participate in civil service, political parties, and other government bodies
- Right to participate in competitive and non-competitive sports
- Equal rights with men in terms of marriage and family matters
- Non-discrimination in educational institutions, scholarship grants, and training on the basis of sex
- Non-discrimination for women who want to enter the military, police, and other services
- Non-derogatory representation of women in the media
The law declares women have the right to protection from violence, to receive equal treatment, and to access education without their sex or gender hindering this. In terms of the workplace, the Magna Carta of Women provides women the right to file for a paid leave for up to two months for minor and major gynecological surgeries. This is different from sick leave, vacation leave, and parental leave for single parents.
However, Filipinas employed in the private sector must comply with certain conditions before they can qualify for special leave. They have to have been employed by the company for at least one year and should have rendered at least six months of continuous work. They should also file for leave with a reasonable lead time except in cases of emergency procedures. If you need to avail of this leave, consult your HR representative to learn more.
Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995
Republic Act 7877, or the Anti-Sexual Harassment Act, was signed by former president Fidel Ramos in 1995 as a means to declare sexual harassment unlawful in any workplace or place of education. Section 3 of the law defines that anyone – employer, employee, manager, supervisor – with power over another employee who requests, demands, or requires sexual favors is committing sexual harassment, regardless of sex. Other instances of sexual harassment include but are not limited to:
- If you are in a position where a supervisor or someone higher in the company asks a sexual favor as a way of ensuring you get hired, re-hired, or keep your job;
- Asks a sexual favor in exchange for a raise, a promotion, better benefits, or a change in terms of conditions in your contract;
- Threatens to limit, discriminate, deprive, or diminish your career opportunities (or threatens to fire you) if you refuse to perform sexual favors
- The perpetrator’s actions make your workplace feel intimidating, hostile, or offensive.
The law dictates that it is the employer or the heads of the company (usually HR)’s responsibility to prevent cases of sexual harassment. In case an incident does happen, it is their responsibility to provide the victim with procedures for resolution by having a system to regulate and govern sexual harassment case investigations. The team investigating must also consist of representatives from all levels of the company.
The problem many victims of sexual harassment in the workplace face is the fear of retaliation. If an employee is being harassed by a person in a higher position, they are afraid of their harasser pulling rank, threatening, or blackmailing them, thus discouraging the victim from speaking up. It is the HR’s responsibility to provide protection against retaliation, as well as making sure the identity of the victim remains confidential.
105-Day Expanded Maternity Leave Law
Republic Act 12210, also known as the 105-Day Expanded Maternity Leave Law, was signed by President Rodrigo Duterte in 2019. This provides longer maternity leave to pregnant employees who meet certain conditions. This is to give consideration to women who are about to give birth and those who have given birth. The expanded maternity leave applies to women who have given live births, suffered miscarriages, or have undergone emergency termination.
For live births, this applies to women who have given birth either via natural birth or caesarian section; they will be given 105 days of maternity leave with full pay. Women who have undergone miscarriages while five months pregnant or earlier, women who have undergone emergency termination of pregnancy six months or later, and women who have suffered a stillborn pregnancy are given 60 days of paid leave.
You can choose to give up to 7 days of maternity leave credits to your child’s father or anyone willing to provide assistance during your recuperation. If you want to extend your maternity leave, you can opt to have an additional 30 unpaid days after the 105 paid leaves are finished. However, you need to provide your company written notice at least 45 days before the end of paid maternity leave. Single mothers are entitled to an additional 15 days.
To protect a woman’s job security during their absence, the law also states that a woman’s benefits cannot be decreased during maternity leave. Your employer also cannot reduce your job rank, revoke your status, or decrease your salary. Your employer cannot discriminate based on your employment status, civil status, or how frequent you get pregnant.
These laws ensure that not only does a woman feel safe where she works, but the special needs a woman has are addressed without it affecting her position at work or the progress of her career.