Empowering Equality: Navigating the Landscape of Women’s Rights in the Workplace

Empowering Equality: Navigating the Landscape of Women's Rights in the Workplace

Women’s rights span a wide range of issues, from voting and holding public office to securing equal employment opportunities and fair wages. Grounded in the principle of gender equality, these rights affirm that men and women should enjoy equal rights and opportunities.

In the workplace, gender equality signifies that men and women should have identical chances for career entry and progression, receive equal pay for similar work, and enjoy the same legal benefits and protections.

In the Philippine context, workplace women’s rights are intricately linked with the country’s socio-cultural landscape. Despite the Philippines being a predominantly patriarchal society, significant strides have been made in promoting women’s rights and gender equality. Acknowledged as one of the most gender-equal nations in Asia, the Philippines boasts women occupying key roles in government, business, and academia.

Beneath this facade of progress, however, lies a stark reality. Many Filipino women still encounter discrimination and inequality in the workplace, facing lower pay, limited career advancement opportunities, and a higher likelihood of experiencing sexual harassment and violence. Additionally, women in the Philippines bear a disproportionate burden of unpaid care and domestic work, further restricting their economic participation and advancement opportunities.

Philippine Labor Laws: Empowering Equality

Acknowledging these challenges, the Philippine government has enacted various labor laws aimed at promoting gender equality and safeguarding women’s rights in the workplace. These laws establish a legal framework to address gender-based discrimination and violence, ensure equal opportunities and benefits, and promote women’s economic empowerment.

A landmark legislation is the Magna Carta of Women (Republic Act No. [“RA”] 9710), incorporating provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, particularly in defining gender discrimination, state obligations, substantive equality, and temporary special measures. Enacted in 2009, this comprehensive law seeks to eliminate discrimination against women by recognizing, protecting, fulfilling, and promoting their rights across all spheres, including the workplace. It mandates equal treatment in employment, prohibits discrimination in hiring, promotion, and training, and ensures equal pay for work of equal value.

A key provision in the Magna Carta of Women provides that a woman employee having rendered continuous aggregate employment service of at least six (6) months for the last twelve (12) months shall be entitled to a special leave benefit of two (2) months with full pay based on her gross monthly compensation following surgery caused by gynecological disorders.1

The Anti-Violence Against Women and their Children Act of 2004 (RA 9262) states that, in addition to other paid leaves under existing labor laws, company policies, and/or collective bargaining agreements, the qualified victim-employee shall be entitled to a leave of up to ten (10) days with full pay.2 The said leave shall be extended when the need arises, as specified in the protection order issued by the barangay or the court.3 To be entitled to the leave benefit, the only requirement is for the victim-employee to present to her employer a certification from the barangay chairman (punong barangay), barangay councilor (barangay kagawad), prosecutor, or Clerk of Court, as the case may be, that an action relative to the matter is pending.4

Another crucial law is the Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995 (RA 7877), which defines and penalizes workplace sexual harassment, providing crucial protection for women disproportionately affected by such incidents. The Safe Spaces Act (RA 11313), enacted in 2019, further strengthens legal protections against sexual harassment. It broadens the definition of sexual harassment, covering a wider range of situations and spaces, including online platforms, and imposes stricter penalties for offenders. 

Under the Safe Spaces Act, employers and individuals in positions of authority within a workplace are obligated to prevent, discourage, and penalize gender-based sexual harassment (“GBSH”) acts. To fulfill this responsibility, they must disseminate the relevant laws by prominently displaying copies in the workplace, utilizing official communication channels, online platforms, and conducting orientations. Measures to prevent GBSH, such as anti-sexual harassment seminars and additional training on gender sensitivity, are mandatory for all employees.5 Establishing an independent internal mechanism, like the Committee on Decorum and Investigation, is crucial for investigating and addressing GBSH complaints. Employers are required to collaborate with employees and unions to develop and circulate a code of conduct or workplace policy, explicitly prohibiting GBSH, outlining internal investigation procedures, and stipulating administrative penalties.6

Moreover, the Expanded Maternity Leave Law (RA 11210), also enacted in 2019, grants one hundred five (105) days maternity leave with full pay, and additional fifteen (15) days with full pay in case the female employee qualifies as a solo parent under RA 8972, as amended by RA 11861.7 In cases of live childbirth, an additional maternity leave of thirty (30) days without pay can be availed of, at the option of the female employee, provided that the employer shall be given due notice.8 Further, this leave benefit may also be credited as combinations of prenatal and postnatal leave as long as it does not exceed 105 days, and provided that compulsory postnatal leave shall not be less than sixty (60) days.9 In case of miscarriage or emergency termination of pregnancy, the maternity leave shall be for 60 days with full pay.10

Challenges and Opportunities

Despite these progressive labor laws, implementation and enforcement remain challenging. Some employers are unaware of these laws or choose to disregard them, while women employees may lack awareness of their rights or fear retaliation if asserted. Furthermore, existing laws do not fully address systemic and structural barriers to gender equality in the workplace, such as occupational segregation, gender stereotypes, and the unequal division of unpaid care and domestic work.

To navigate this complex landscape, concerted efforts are needed from all sectors of society. The government must strengthen the enforcement of labor laws and invest in programs promoting women’s economic empowerment. Employers should adopt gender-responsive policies and practices, provide safe and inclusive workplaces, and ensure equal opportunities for all employees. Women employees, in turn, must know and assert their rights, seek support when violated, and actively participate in decision-making processes affecting their work and lives.

For example, collaborative initiatives between the government, non-governmental organizations, and businesses can conduct awareness campaigns to educate both employers and employees about their rights and responsibilities under these laws.

The journey towards empowering equality in the Philippine workplace is ongoing. While existing labor laws provide a foundation, much work remains to ensure their effective implementation and address deeper systemic barriers to gender equality. 

As we navigate this landscape, let us remember that women’s rights are human rights, and promoting gender equality benefits not only women but also the workplace, the economy, and society as a whole. Be part of promoting women’s rights in your workplace; feel free to seek legal advice and assistance towards gender equality.   

Prepared by Christian Justin B. Streegan


  1. Section 18, The Magna Carta of Women, Republic Act No. 9710, 14 August 2009.
  2. Section 43, Anti-Violence Against Women and their Children Act of 2004, Republic Act No. 9262, 8 March 2004.
  3. Section 42, IRR – RA No. 9262 (Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act of 2004), 2004.
  4. Id.
  5. Section 19, Implementing Rules and Regulations of Republic Act No. 11313 (Safe Spaces Act), IRR of RA 11313, 28 October 28, 2019.
  6. Id.
  7. Section 2, Rule III, Implementing Rules and Regulations of the 105-Day Expanded Maternity Leave Law (R.A. No. 11210), IRR of RA 11210, 1 May 2019.
  8. Id.
  9. Id.
  10. Id.