Cathy (not her real name) has just returned to work after her maternity leave. Employed in an establishment with 24/7 operations, Cathy complains about graveyard shifts that limit her time with her baby. Her supervisor does not make her situation any better by refusing to approve her leaves for routine check ups and emergencies involving her baby. This, despite the fact that everyone in the workplace knows: Cathy is a solo parent.
Women and Night Work
In the Philippines, Republic Act (RA) No. 10151, "An Act Allowing the Employment of Night Workers...," repealed the night work prohibitions on women of the Philippine Labor Code thus, enabling them to take shifts from 10:00 pm to 6:00 am as a means to equal employment opportunities. More than this, the law remains considerate of women night workers like Cathy. Employers are required to provide alternatives to women with the following special circumstances:
(a) Before and after childbirth, for a period of at least sixteen (16) weeks, which shall be divided between the time before and after childbirth;
(b) For additional periods, in respect of which a medical certificate is produced stating that said additional periods are necessary for the health of the mother or child:
(1) During pregnancy;
(2) During a specified time beyond the period, after childbirth is fixed pursuant to subparagraph (a) above, the length of which shall be determined by the DOLE after consulting the labor organizations and employers.
The night work alternative should not reduce the "protection and benefits connected with maternity leave under existing laws."
Women's enhanced status as mothers should not deter their access to promotion nor affect their status and seniority.
Solo Parent Incentives
As a solo parent, Cathy is also protected by the law with RA 8972 or the "Solo Parents' Welfare Act of 2000." Two of its provisions that are most relevant to working women (and men, too) are the parental leaves and flexible work schedules.
Parental Leaves. Under the said law, solo parents are entitled to seven days of parental leaves in addition to the government-mandated service incentive leaves and the other leave incentives usually given by employers such as vacation leaves and sick leaves. To avail this, a solo parent should have rendered at least one year of service, as well as present a Solo Parent ID issued by the City or Municipal Social Welfare and Development Office, which must be renewed annually.
Flexible Work Schedule. This is a section that would need some careful scrutiny to strike a balance between the demands of parenthood and work. While employers are required to give solo parents provide flexible working schedules, it is clear in the provision that this arrangement is possible when it does not affect the productivity of both the individual and the company. Further, it explicitly says that "any employer may request exemption from the above requirements from the DOLE on certain meritorious grounds."
Job Security and Career Development
When Cathy relayed her woes to me five years ago, she said that she was hesitant to report her supervisor to higher authorities despite my prodding. As a solo parent, Cathy feared losing her job although later, she was forced to resign and depend on the generosity of her parents to raise her young child.
Cathy must have known then that women workers cannot be dismissed on grounds that are related to their childcare responsibilities. At the same time, their enhanced status as mothers should not deter their access to promotion nor affect their status and seniority.
* * *
This post was written in 2012 in response to the the concerns commonly raised by friends who were in the same situation as Cathy. Five years later, I am still approached by women and men with regard to the topic. So this is an effort to help more women make smart choices in balancing the demands of their careers as professionals and as mothers.