21 days leave will cost Govt Nu 500 mn per year and disrupt service delivery: RCSC

The 21 days leave provision introduced by the National Assembly will incur about Nu 500 million (mn) per annum to the government, according to the Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC).

RCSC had earlier introduced 12 days Annual Leave (AL), which the National Assembly (NA), taking into account numerous factors, raised to 21 days. The choice was made in response to civil servants’ complaints and requests for longer vacation periods, particularly for events, like pilgrimages.

The head of the Economic and Finance Committee (EFC), MP Kinga Penjor of Gangzur-Minjey, emphasized that the initial 12-day AL was insufficient in comparison to other countries’ AL programs, which normally last between 20 and 30 days.

Penjor emphasized the need of leisure time for government workers and the necessity to motivate workers through financial rewards and opportunities for renewal, adding that the current system fell short in this area.

Additionally, MP Tenzin of Khatoed-Laya brought up Bhutan’s difficulties with its few transportation alternatives and lengthy travel times.

Furthermore, the government was also urged to consider providing AL for local government officials, who have shorter tenures in the office.

The National Council removed this 21 day leave provision from the Pay Bill but the NA put it back in.

Other leave provisions, remained the same.

On an average, civil servants get about 136 days of holiday including government holidays and weekends, in a year.

Bhutanese civil servants also has one of the most generous entitlements of leave with 10 types of leaves in addition to the government holidays and weekends, which are, bereavement leave of 21 days, extraordinary leave up to 24 months (2 years); maternity leave of 6 months; medical leave up to 3 years. Medical escort leave up to 2 months, paternity leave of 10 working days, preparatory leave on transfer of 5 days, for pursuing studies 26 days, for superannuation 1 month, study leave dependent on the duration of the course. Earned leave which is prorated into the salary of 30 days, and casual leave of 10 days.

According to RCSC, with the expectations of higher productivity and accountability in the civil service, the 12-day AL was introduced with the objective to provide work-life balance, given that earned leave was automatically prorated into monthly salary.

“However, the implications of the doubling of annual leave from 12 days to 21 days is that there is a high possibility of disruption in service delivery during certain times of the year. This was not noticed in the past as the majority of civil servants saved their leave to encash it or carry it forward for the next year,” shared an official from RCSC.

Now, with the passing of the Pay Revision Bill by the Parliament, civil servants now have 21 days of AL together with 10 days casual leave. However, the two leaves cannot be carried forward unlike the past given that the objective is to provide for periodic rest and rejuvenation. Hence, most civil servants will opt for leave, said the RCSC official.

“Any form of leave entitlements has cost implications to the government exchequer. The additional 21 days of annual leave will cost the government approximately Nu 500 million per annum,” she pointed out.

The AL has been received with mixed reviews, with teachers also wanting the same leave.

A private sector employee said, “For the civil servants, considering the fact that they have various leave entitlements, 21 days’ leave will surely hamper productivity as the working period is shortened and there are also national holidays that are excluded.”

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