By Filane Mikee Cervantes
MANILA – The House of Representatives on Monday overwhelmingly approved on final reading a measure that would expand the prohibited acts of discrimination in the workplace against female employees.
With 248 affirmative votes, the chamber approved House Bill 4479, which seeks to amend the Labor Code of the Philippines, particularly Article 135 of Presidential Decree No. 442.
Under the bill, favoring a male over a female employee with respect to assignment, promotion, training opportunities, study and scholarship grants, solely on account of their sex or characteristics, whether actual or presumed, shall be considered an act of discrimination.
It shall also be a discriminatory act to favor a male over a female employee with respect to dismissal of personnel or the application of any retrenchment policy of the employer solely on account of their sex or characteristics, whether actual or presumed.
Denying any woman the benefits of employment or other statutory benefits by reason of her sex shall likewise be considered an act of discrimination.
The proposed measure also seeks to amend Article 137, as amended by making it unlawful for any employer to discharge a woman employee on account of her pregnancy, or while on leave or while in confinement due to her pregnancy.
The penalties for violating the provisions of the proposed law entail a fine of PHP50,000 to PHP200,000 and/or imprisonment of one to two years.
The conviction or acquittal obtained by the employer shall not be a hindrance to the filing by the female employee of a civil suit for the payment of salaries or benefits due her.
Calamba City Representative Charisse Hernandez, author of the measure, said discrimination in the labor market towards women remains pervasive notwithstanding protection given by the Constitution and other laws.
Citing the World Economic Forum as provided in its Global Gender Gap Report 2021, Hernandez said the Philippines ranked 17th out of 156 countries in narrowing the gender gap in terms of economic participation and opportunities.
“This shows progress, however we must further improve and continuously ramp up our efforts in eliminating discrimination and abasement against women which still exists in the ordinary workplace,” Hernandez said.
Other authors of the bill are Speaker Martin Romualdez, House Majority Leader Manuel Jose Dalipe, and Rizal Rep. Juan Fidel Felipe Nograles, among others. (PNA)