With the cabinet and Royal Civil Service Commission recently announcing a six month maternity leave for civil servants, the women employees of government corporations and even private companies have been wondering about their fate.
Lyonpo Dorji Choden in her capacity as a cabinet member and Chairperson of the National Commission of Women and Children (NCWC) wrote letters to the Ministry of Finance (MoF), Druk Holdings and Investment (DHI) and Ministry of Labour and Human Resources (MoLHR) on the issue of Maternity Leave for both government corporations and the private sector.
The letters were sent two weeks ago according to the minister.
“The implementation of maternity leave in the civil service is only the first step and it will only be half complete if it is not implemented in the corporate and private sector,” said Lyonpo.
She said that being the first step they would like to encourage government corporations to adopt maternity leave.
“In the case of the private sector not everybody can afford it and so the ones who can afford it should set good examples,” she said.
Lyonpo said that the government was not insisting that the same exact model be applied but government corporations can make improvements on the existing model. She said that in the private sector there could be even more different ideas which did not necessarily involve money and could involve some kind of a flexi time for mothers.
Lyonpo clarified that the letters sent to the three organizations were not instructions or orders but it talked about maternity leave outside the civil service and on what could be done to implement it.
She said that both the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Labour and Human Resources are looking at the situation and doing some work on it.
The minister has also proposed to the MoLHR to bring up the matter before the cabinet.
The MoLHR’s role is important as the Labour rules set by it are also applicable to all government commercial corporations.
Meanwhile, DHI has asked its companies to do their own individual studies on the maternity leave issue and submit their reports to DHI by April 2016.
DHI CEO Karam Yezer Raydi said, “Each company will see the positives and negatives, the financial and social impact etc after which we will have to sit down and discuss.”
He said that each company has its own service rules and currently it is not possible to predict the outcome or decision.
A senior DHI official said that ultimately DHI would have to see the impact on services as money would not be an issue. He said that it is possible that DHI can come up with a modified proposal for maternity leave.
The 12 DHI owned companies has 7,183 employees not including DHI controlled or DHI linked companies.
The State Owned Enterprises like Bhutan Broadcasting Service(BBS), Kuensel, Food Corporation of Bhutan, Bhutan Lottery etc under the Ministry of Finance are also waiting for directions.
The BBS MD Tshering Wangchuk said that the BBS management would first have to discuss the issue before putting up anything to the board. He said that the challenge is that BBS depends upon the government for around 60 percent of its funds and has to come up with 40 percent of its own commercial income. He said that any maternity leave proposal implementation would require support from the MoF.
The FCB MD Karma Nidup said that FCB was also awaiting instructions from the MoF.
Lyonpo Dorji Choden said that corporations and others should understand that raising a child is not only the responsibility of the mother but the entire society. She said that while all walks of life from the work place to politics called for more women participation, it should also be friendlier for women.
“The existing mindset needs to change,” stressed Lyonpo.
Lyonpo said even medically the root cause of many diseases and health problems is due to insufficient breast feeding.
The minister said it is also important to have crèches at the workplace.
However, despite Lyonpo’s efforts and passion so far the ‘leave it up to the corporations’ policy by the government has ensured that no single government corporation has implemented the maternity leave reforms that civil servants are now enjoying.
Even the Prime Minister’s earlier appeal inviting government corporations and even a few in the private sector to implement maternity leave seems to have fallen on deaf ears.
Lyonpo clarified that the cabinet was fully in support of maternity leave as a principal and she said that even on maternity leave outside the civil service her cabinet colleagues are supportive.
Lyonpo chaired the government committe that came up with the original maternity leave proposal that was submitted to the RCSC in early 2015 .