The governments of every high-income economy in the world take measures to support parents in their efforts to care for newborn children. These policies reflect the national interest in promoting the health and well-being of infants and young children as well as society’s recognition that the first months and years of a child’s life require substantial and sustained attention from parents.
THE LEGAL BACKGROUND OF MATERNITY LEAVE BENEFITS IN THE PHILIPPINES
The words of the law itself, as guaranteed and embodied in no less than the highest and fundamental law of the land, affords utmost protection and safety to women, taking into high consideration their maternal functions. The exact provision avowingto such intention can be found in Article XIII, Section 14 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution  , which states that:
“Section 14. The State shall protect working women by providing safe and healthful working conditions, taking into account their maternal functions, and such facilities and opportunities that will enhance their welfare and enable them to realize their full potential in the service of the nation.”
Such intent of the law is further reiterated and emphasized in the provisions of Article 133 of the Labor Code of the Philippines as it expressly recognizes the need for, and grants to women employees Maternity Leave Benefits. The exact provisions of said Article 133 are as follows:
ART. 133. Maternity leave benefits. 
Every employer shall grant to any pregnant woman employee who has rendered an aggregate service of at least six (6) months for the last twelve (12) months, maternity leave of at least two (2) weeks prior to the expected date of delivery and another four (4) weeks after normal delivery or abortion with full pay based on her regular or average weekly wages. The employer may require from any woman employee applying for maternity leave the production of a medical certificate stating that delivery will probably take place within two weeks.
The maternity leave shall be extended without pay on account of illness medically certified to arise out of the pregnancy, delivery, abortion or miscarriage, which renders the woman unfit for work, unless she has earned unused leave credits from which such extended leave may be charged.
The maternity leave provided in this Article shall be paid by the employer only for the first four (4) deliveries by a woman employee after the effectivity of this Code.
Another statutory provision which further upholds the government’s intent in providing women employees certain benefits in relation to the exercise of their maternal functions is Section 14-A of Republic Act No. 1161 (An Act to Create a Social Security System Providing Sickness, Unemployment, Retirement, Disability and Death Benefits for Employees), better known as the Social Security Law. It more specifically provides for the conditions on how such benefits can be availed of.
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Section 14-A. Maternity Leave Benefit.  – A covered female employee who has paid at least three monthly maternity contributions in the twelve-month period preceding the semester of her childbirth, abortion, or miscarriage and who is currently employed shall be paid a daily maternity benefit equivalent to one hundred per cent of her present basic salary, allowances and other benefits or the cash equivalents of such benefits for sixty days subject to the following conditions:
That the employee shall have notified her employer of her pregnancy and the probable date of her childbirth which notice shall be transmitted to the SSS in accordance with the rules and regulations it may provide;
That the payment shall be advanced by the employer in two equal installments within thirty days from the filing of the maternity leave application;
That in case of caesarean delivery, the employees shall be paid the daily maternity benefit for seventy-eight days;
That payment of daily maternity benefits shall be a bar to the recovery of sickness benefits provided by this Act for the same compensable period of sixty days for the same childbirth, abortion, or miscarriage;
That the maternity benefits provided under this section shall be paid only for the first four deliveries after March 13, 1973;
That the SSS shall immediately reimburse the employer of one hundred per cent of the amount of maternity benefits advanced to the employee by the employer upon receipt of satisfactory proof of such payment and legality thereof; and
That if an employee should give birth or suffer abortion or miscarriage without the required contributions having been remitted for her by her employer to the SSS, or without the latter having been previously notified by the employer of time of the pregnancy, the employer shall pay to the SSS damages equivalent to the benefits which said employee would otherwise have been entitled to, and the SSS shall in turn pay such amount to the employee concerned.
The aforementioned provision was amended in the year 1992 by Republic Act No. 7322 entitled, An Act Increasing Maternity Benefits in Favor of Women Workers in the Private Sector, Amending for the Purpose Section 14-A of Republic Act No. 1161, as Amended, and for Other Purposes. The exact words of the law as taken from the said statute are as follows:
SEC. 14-A. Maternity Leave Benefit.  -A covered female employee who has paid at least three monthly maternity contributions in the twelve-month period preceding the semester of her childbirth, abortion or miscarriage and who is currently employed shall be paid a daily maternity benefit equivalent to one hundred percent (100%) of her present basic salary, allowances and other benefits or the cash equivalent of such benefits for sixty (60) days subject to the following conditions:
That the employee shall have notified her employer of her pregnancy and the probable date of her childbirth which notice shall be transmitted to the SSS in accordance with the rules and regulations it may provide;
That the payment shall be advanced by the employer in two equal installments within thirty (30) days from the filing of the maternity leave application:
That in case of caesarean delivery, the employee shall be paid the daily maternity benefit for seventy-eight (78) days;
That payment of daily maternity benefits shall be a bar to the recovery of sickness benefits provided by this Act for the same compensable period of sixty (60) days for the same childbirth, abortion, or miscarriage;
That the maternity benefits provided under this Section shall be paid only for the first four deliveries after March 13, 1973;
That the SSS shall immediately reimburse the employer of one hundred percent (100%) of the amount of maternity benefits advanced to the employee by the employer upon receipt of satisfactory proof of such payment and legality thereof; and
That if an employee should give birth or suffer abortion or miscarriage without the required contributions having been remitted for her by her employer to the SSS, or without the latter having been previously notified by the employer of the time of the pregnancy, the employer shall pay to the SSS damages equivalent to the benefits which said employee would otherwise have been entitled to, and the SSS shall in turn pay such amount to the employee concerned.
It is necessary to point out that the maternity leave benefits granted in the aforementioned provisions are applicable only to women employees working in the private sectors. The proper and applicable statutory basis for maternity leave benefits granted to employees of the public sector is Commonwealth Act No. 647.  Such act which provides the female workforce employed in public and government offices and agencies with benefits similar to those employed in the private sector explicitly states that:
SECTION 1. Married women who are permanently or temporarily appointed in the service of the Government, or in any of its branches, subdivisions, agencies, or instrumentalities, including the corporations and enterprises owned or controlled by the Government, shall, in addition to the vacation and sick leave which they may enjoy now, be entitled in case of pregnancy to a maternity leave of sixty (60) days subject to the following conditions:
Permanent and regular employees who have rendered two or more years of continuous service shall be entitled to maternity leave with full pay;
Permanent and regular employees who have rendered less than two years of continuous service, shall be entitled to half pay; and,
Temporary employees shall be entitled to maternity leave without pay and shall be readmitted to the service at the end of their leave. No employee shall be refused readmission to the service on the ground of absence on account of maternity
Awarding such benefits to women employees is unmistakably a considerate and sympathetic initiative of the Philippine government. However, there might be a necessity to look into the sufficiency of the sixty (60) days and seventy-eight (78) days of leave, periods of time for which the law providessuch leave benefit. In determining the adequacy of leave duration, it is but basic to consider (a) how long thebody needs to fully recover from delivery, either through a normal vaginal delivery or through a Caesarean birth considering that it is free from complications; and, (b) the motherly needs of a new bornchild immediately after birth.
THE MODES OF CHILDBIRTH
Normal Spontaneous Vaginal Delivery (NSVD) is the most common and safest mode of child delivery. It is the process wherein fetal expulsion is accomplished when the baby passes through and out of the vaginal canal. It usually requires minimal medical intervention as it is the normal and natural method that humans deliver an offspring. Naturally, due to factors such as uterine muscle stretching, hormonal changes, and placental age, the uterus is stimulated and begins to contract. Also, the baby’s head which puts direct pressure on the cervix causes its effacement and dilatation – the process by which the cervix shortens in length and thins out while enlarging or widening the opening of the cervical canal. With the subsequent intermittent contractions of the uterus and the effacement and dilatation of the cervix, together with frequentfetalposition changes to keep the smallest diameter of the fetal head always presenting to the smallest diameter of the maternal pelvis, and with the natural pull of gravity as well, the fetus is propelled through the birth canal and out of the mother’s system.  However, in some instances and due to some abnormalities in the dynamics of childbirth, the fetus cannot efficiently and effectively propel itself out of the birth canal. In such cases, the use of assistive devices such as a vacuum or forceps is necessary to guide and draw out the child from the mother’s womb safely. 
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It is not in all instances that a vaginal delivery or childbirth is possible. Some occurrences necessitate and require the assumption of alternative methods of childbirth. Problematic occurrences such as,(a) multiple gestation; (b)unusual fetal position and presentation in relation to the vaginal passage; (c) cephalopelvic disproportion -either the fetus is too big for the maternal passage, or the diameter of the maternal pelvic, cervical, or vaginal opening is too small for the fetus to pass;(d)a dysfunctional labor such as an ineffective uterine contraction force, uncoordinated contractions, uterine rupture, or inversion of the uterus;(e) anomalies of the placenta or the umbilical cord such as placenta succenturiata, placenta circumvallata, vasa previa, the prolapse of the umbilical cord, the presence of a two-vessel cord, and an unusual umbilical cord length; or (f) an emergency situation causing severe fetaldistress, prohibit the fetus from being born safely and normally through a vaginal delivery and are thus, among the reasons for which such alternative options need to be implemented. 
A Caesarean delivery or birth is the most common alternative intervention medically advised when a Normal Spontaneous Vaginal Delivery is gravely hazardous and threatening to the mother or the child, or both. This method can also be voluntarily selected by women who do not want to go through the pain and discomfort of the normal processes oflabor and subsequently, childbirth. Caesarean Delivery is the mode of birth accomplished through an abdominal incision into the uterus. It is always slightly more hazardous than vaginal birth. But, rest assured, it is one of the safest types of surgeries and among those with few complications.  A Caesarean Section (CS) surgery is accomplished by making an incision on the abdominal area which cuts open the uterus and allow for the child to be drawn out of the mother’s body. As opposed to a normal vaginal delivery where the medical team waits for the natural expulsion of the placenta, the procedure of Caesarean birth includes the manual removal of the placenta. Afterwhich, the internal cavity of the uterus is inspected and the membrane fragments, together withcoagulated blood components and other foreign matters are taken out before the incision is closed. The healing period of this surgical procedure is dependent on several factors including the woman’s general health condition, her age, nutritional status and fluid and electrolyte balance. However, a major determining aspect is the type of incision made during the operation. A Caesarean section is done by performing either a classic caesarean incision (vertical incision) or a low segment incision (transverse incision, also known as the bikini cut). Between the two aforementioned incisions, the latter is more preferred as it cuts through the non-active portion of the uterine muscle, thus, it allows for a subsequent vaginal birth of future pregnancies. Another advantage of the low segment cut is its faster healing time than a classic incision, and a decreased risk for post-delivery complications.  Due to its being surgical in nature, a Caesarean birth method usually necessitates more attention and takes a longer recovery period than that of a vaginal delivery.
The postpartum, peurperium, or post-partal periodis the time after the delivery of the new born up to the full recovery of the mother wherein psychological and physiological changes occur to restore the woman’s mind and body to its pre-pregnant state. This progression is applicable to both vaginal delivery and Caesarean birth methods. Physiological changes in the post-partal period relate both specifically to the reproductive system and to the systemic physical condition as well. In the post-partal phase the uterus shrinks and reverts to its approximate pre-pregnancy size and position, the inner membranes and uterine lining slough off and develop into the discharge of lochia – a vaginal excretion composed of blood, membrane fragments and mucus, the cervix and the vagina contract and revert to its pre-pregnancy size and diameter. All these events are encompassed in the course of involution, the hallmark process of the postpartum period. Together with involution, changes in the hormonal, circulatory, urinary, gastrointestinal, and integumentary systems also occur to entirely bring back the woman’s pre-pregnancy physiologic condition.In general, the immediate post-partal period for both vaginal and Caesarean modes of delivery ranges from six (6)to eight (8) weeks or more, putting into consideration that the mother does not develop any postpartum complications. Though, it must be emphasized that a woman’s body is not fully restored to its pre-pregnant physiology until six (6) moths after delivery. 
NEEDS OF A NEW BORN CHILD
During the labor and delivery process, the focus and attention fully belongs to the mother, the childbearer. Conversely, after the delivery process, such focus and attention is shifted to the new born child. Newborns undergo profound physiologic changes at the moment of birth as they are released from a warm, snug, dark, liquid-filled environment that has met all of their basic needs into a chilly, unbounded, brightly lit, gravity-based, outside world.  As the child is incapable of providing its needs, it becomes fully dependent on the caregiver who, in most instances, is the mother. In viewing the new born holistically, such needs can be classified into two categories – the physiologic and the psychological necessities.
Encompassed in the new born child’s physical needs is: (a)the imperative need for breastfeeding -it is universally agreed that breast milk is the preferred methodof feeding a new born because it provides numerous health benefits to both the mother and the child, unless there are existing contraindications such as infant galactosemia, herpes lesions on the mother’s nipples, maternal exposure to radioactive compounds, breast cancer, maternal active and untreated tuberculosis, hepatitis B or C, etc.; (b) the adherence to a feeding-on-demand scheme – a new born child should be fed anytime, most preferably breastfed, whenever such is demanded; (c) the observance of a consistent sleeping pattern – a newborn sleeps an average of sixteen (16) of every twenty-four (24)hours, an average of 4 hours at a time; (d) maintenance of a proper sleeping position – a newborn should be positioned on theback for sleep as this has shown to decrease the incidence of the Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), asudden, unexplained death of an infant younger than 1 year of age; (e) on-time vaccination and screening tests; and, (f) proper diaper area care – proper diaper area care and preventing diaper dermatitis is a practice that parents usually tend to neglect.
Another aspect of the new born child’s needs is the psychological part. According to a study aided by the UNICEF, between the ages of zero and five years, critical aspects of children’s physical, cognitive, emotional, social and spiritual developments take place. The events which take place in a child’s early life can impact upon their development over the rest of their lifespan.  A new born child’s psychological needs are just as important as the physical ones. Babies need touch and attention from their caregivers to thrive. Cuddling, singing, talking and reading to the baby are all ways to cement the bond between newborn and caregivers. Letting a newborn know he is loved will help him grow into a secure child.  Erik Erikson, one of the pillar theorists of Psychology, identified the eight (8) stages of Psychosocial Development that a person goes through from birth to death. Stage one (1) of which involves the psychological developmental conflict of a newborn from birth to one (1) year, and this is trust versus mistrust. According to Erikson, the baby will develop a sense of trust only if the parent or caregiver isresponsive and consistent with the basic needs being met.Babies who are not securely attached to their mothers are less cooperativeand are more aggressive in their interactions. And as they growolder, they become less competent and sympathetic with peers. They also tend to exploretheir environment with less enthusiasm and persistence. 
Evidently, the aforementioned needs of a new born child entail a structured play of events which progress from the moment of birth. It is logical to infer that it takes a much longer period of time when the crucial mother-child interaction is considered than it takes plainly for the recovery from the labor and delivery processes.
MATERNITY LEAVE BENEFITS IN OTHER COUNTRIES
For purposes of comparison, the Huffington Post Canada shows a chart which indicates the duration of time for which the government of other countries grant maternity leave benefits to women employees. 
The United Nations, as an international organization not subject to the jurisdiction of any single country, have their own legislation on granting maternity leave benefits. According to its Administrative Instruction  on such matter, an expectant mother shall be entitled to sixteen (16) weeks of paid leave benefit. Six (6) weeks of which is the pre-delivery leave and the remaining ten (10) weeks as post-delivery leave. A shorter period of pre-delivery leave may be granted at the request of the concerned staff member on the basis of a certification from a licensed medical practitioner. However, she shall not be allowed a post-delivery leave of less than ten (10) weeks.
As in the case of the United States of America, there is no federal law which specifically grants women employees such paid maternity leave benefits. Instead, what exists is the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) which provides certain employees, subject to certain eligibility conditions, with up to twelve (12) weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year for the following reasons: (a) for the birth and care of the new born child; (b) for the placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care; (c) to care for an immediate family member (spouse, child, or parent) with a serious health condition; or, (d) to take medical leave when the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition.  However, according to a report of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a large share of working parents is either not covered or not eligible for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act.  The same report stated that, the United States has the least generous parental leave policies among the twenty-one (21) high-income countries studied – countries included aside from the United States were Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. That, with the exception of only a handful of states, the U.S. law provides no rights and benefits to paid parental leave.
In a much closer view, the fellow-Asian countries of the Philippines, except for a few, have also adopted and appreciated the significance of a longer duration of maternal leave.
CONS AND PROS OF LEAVE EXTENSION
To fairly appraise the necessity of extending the duration of maternity leave in the Philippines, here are a few grounds for which one may argue on why or why not such an appeal should or should not be granted.
Some of the contentions aimed against an extended maternity leave as cited by the National Network for Child Care, are: (a) companies may find it costly to pay such employee while holding the job position open for a long period of time – there will be an imbalance in the money paid to the person on maternity leave with the amount of work she has provided; (b) possibility of lesser work opportunities for women – with a lengthier duration of maternity leave, companies may favor a more homogenous profile of male workers as undoubtedly, there would be minimal occurrences for excusable and compensable work interruptions; and, (c) there might exist a conflict between expectant mothers and non-parent employees – the duties and responsibilities, dependent on the position left behind by the employee on leave, needs to be filled in by another worker for the effective and efficient operation of the company, such situation may imbue in the minds of the non-parents an inequity and unfairness in the grant of benefits. 
On the other hand, the obvious advantages of extending the duration of paid maternity leave are as follows: (a) it affords ample time for the full recovery of the mother, especially those who have undergone a Caesarean delivery; (b) it reduces unnecessary stress as the employee adjusts to her role as a parent – this supports the contention that such employee will return to work free from the tension and troubles of motherhood; (c) it allows for the fulfilment of maternal responsibilities in response to the physical needs of the new born – it is a principle of human nature that there is no better person to provide care and attention to a child than the mother herself ; (d) it promotes mother-child bonding and attachment for purposes of satisfying the psychosocial needs of the new born. 
A MOVE FOR THE EXTENSION OF MATERNITY LEAVE BENEFITS
With the details and specifics aforecited, it appears that there is indeed a need to extend the 60-day and 78-day durations of maternity leave benefits granted to Filipino women employees. An extension of 10 days each would be adequate to apportion a reasonable time allowance and ensure that once the employee resumes work, she is a hundred percent ready and prepared, thus, assuring a more effective, efficient and competent performance. This would constitute aseventy (70)-day leave period for normal vaginal delivery instead of 60 days, and aneighty-eight (88)-day leave duration for those who had a Caesarean delivery. Such contention is based on the following grounds: (a) the 60-day period granted for those who have undergone a normal delivery is insufficient so as to enable the mother to completely recover from the effects of the birthing process before getting back to work; (b) the 78-day period granted for those who have undergone Caesarean birth is gravely insufficient as such is both a birthing process and a surgical procedure, it requires a much longer healing time; (c) that a longer leave duration would greatly advance the benefits afforded to the youngest generation of the country in terms of their physical and psychosocial development; and, (d) that the Philippines, as a country, has long been left behind by other nations in realizing the pressing need for a longer maternity leave.
It seems as though such need has actually been recognized by the members of the Philippine Congress as evidenced by the passing of House Bill No. 3973, also known as “An Act Increasing Maternity Leave Benefits from 60 Days to 120 Days or Four Months”. Such House Bill was initiated by Liza Maza and LuzvimindaIlagan, representatives of the General Assembly Binding Women for Reforms, Integrity, Equality, Leadership, and Action (GABRIELA) Partylist. House Representative LuzvimindaIlagan said that, “Extending the period for maternity leave will not only give mothers the opportunity to fully recover, it will also give them the chance to breastfeed infants during the first four months.” She also added that, the proposed legislation would also help address the maternal and infant mortality rates in the country. 
Such matters regarding the definite and suitable length of time for which maternity leave benefits should be granted are, as of the moment, still left hanging and undecided. Thus, it is entirely within the control of the Philippine Legislature to resolve such concerns, in the effort of balancing and equalizing the interests of the concerned employee and the employers, for the greater benefit of the general public.
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