By Rea Cu, May 6 2019; Business Mirror

Image Credit to Business Mirror

The Social Security System (SSS) expects its disbursement of maternity benefits, which reached P7.07 billion in 2018, will further increase this year with the implementation of Republic Act 11210, or the Expanded Maternity Leave Law (EMLL).

The state-run pension fund said over the weekend its disbursements for maternity benefits in 2018 increased 15.6 percent, from the P6.11 billion recorded in 2017. It will further increase after the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) for RA 11210 was signed on May 1.

“We are glad that we are able to assist more of our female members financially during their pregnancy in 2018,” SSS President and CEO Aurora C. Ignacio said. “We have recorded an increase of 12.6 percent, or 36,550 female members more who availed themselves of the benefit in 2018 compared to that of the previous year.”

More than 326,000 SSS members availed of the maternity benefit disbursements last year, coming from 289,450 members in 2017.

Broken down, 68.2 percent or 222,551 are employee-members with total disbursements amounting to P5.98 billion, voluntary members accounted for 25 percent or 81,641 being provided a disbursement of around P850 million, followed by 4.5 percent or 14,692 self-employed members with disbursements amounting to P80 million, as well as 2.3 percent or 7,429 overseas Filipino worker (OFWs) members with P150 million.

“We are expecting that these disbursements will continue to increase this year following the implementation of the EMLL with the IRR already signed last week,” Ignacio added.

Moreover, SSS maternity benefit disbursements in the first two months of 2019 have already reached P1.34 billion with over 62,000 beneficiaries.

RA 11210 increases the number of paid maternity leaves to 105 days from the current 60 days to 78 days for live childbirth, regardless of the mode of delivery, with an additional 15 days for solo mothers and an option for an additional 30 days without pay.

A 60-day paid leave, on the other hand, will be given to a qualified female member in case of miscarriage or emergency termination of pregnancy. The maternity benefit may be granted regardless of the frequency of deliveries or miscarriage.

The SSS said the current maximum financial assistance of P32,000 will increase to P70,000 based on the increased monthly salary credit of P20,000 under RA 11199, or the Social Security Act of 2018.

“We recognize the needs of mothers and their newborn babies,” Ignacio said. “We hope that through the EMLL, women workers may be able to fully enjoy their rights to health and decent work.”

Last February, then-SSS President and CEO Emmanuel F. Dooc said a hike in contributions of around 0.6 percentage points is an option for the agency to compensate for additional cost of about P7.5 billion for maternity benefits under the EMLL.

Dooc said the EMLL will mean an additional maternity benefit cost of around P7.5 billion annually for the state-run pension fund.

According to an actuarial study of the SSS, if the additional cost of P7.5 billion is added to the current maternity benefit cost of around P6 billion, this would mean a total benefit cost amounting to P13.5 billion.

But Dooc pointed out that the Social Security Commission (SSC) will have to discuss the matter first if an increase in contribution rates will further be implemented.

President Duterte signed into law RA 11199, which is seen to add 13 more years to the pension fund’s life reaching 2045 from the previous 2032. Aside from the contribution rate hike, the law also provides for an increase in minimum and maximum salary credits as well as unemployment insurance and coverage for OFWs.