Govt corporations fail to implement maternity leave

A committee comprising representatives from government, private and corporate sectors, formed earlier this year, will review the maternity and paternity leave for all corporate and private organizations.

The second committee meeting, coordinated by labour ministry, was held on Wednesday, where the members explored the matter and presented recommendations received from their respective companies.

While the government declared a six-month maternity leave for government employees from March 2016 it has failed to get it implemented in government corporations while it is not mandatory in the private sector.

According to an official, the committee was mainly formed by the Ministry after realizing that it is it is equally important for the parents working outside the civil service to be provided with similar leave for the welfare of the mother and child.

So the committee is to encourage the corporate and private sectors to review and look into the possibility of providing maternity services to their employees, to achieve better work performances in the long run.

The formation of what looks in all probability like a committee with no clear powers or mandate would mean that government corporations can continue to not implement maternity reforms in their companies.

The government initially had stated at the highest levels with assurances from both the Prime Minister and Finance Minister that government corporations would have to follow maternity leave. There was also talk that bigger and more well off private companies would be encouraged to implement some kind of maternity leave reform.

This was then toned down to encouraging the boards of these government corporations to come up with suggestions and proposals on the leave to now complete silence.

Even the Druk Holdings and Investment (DHI) is yet to implement any kind of maternity leave reforms in its companies more than a year after the government brought in the reforms in the civil service.

Similarly other State Owned Enterprises under the Ministry of Finance have also been dragging their feet on the issue.

Last year Lyonpo Dorji Choden, Bhutan’s first woman minister, sent a letter to DHI, Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Labor and Human Resources (MoLHR) suggesting they review the maternity along with paternity leave by coming up with their own recommendations even.

DHI discussed the issue during their CEO round table meeting, which suggested that all DHI companies form individual committees to do a review and make suggestions.

One such suggestion was to extend leave by one or two more months from the current three months. The second suggestion was to keep maternity leave as it is, but allow another six months as flexi timing. A third suggestion was to extend their lunch break from one hour to two hours as feeding time, from the current four months two hour lunch timing, until newborns turn a year. The employees in the bigger companies also recommended establishing daycare or crèches facilities.

A DHI official said that they released a grant of Nu. 2.5 million for the Thimphu Tech Park limited (TTPL), which has around 700 employees, to establish a daycare center for newborn babies and toddlers.

A DHI official said that they are planning to assist its bigger companies to establish daycare centers in the office premises. DHI companies like DGPC and BPC are also equipped with a child care facilities.

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