Potential mothers in the civil service and their family members maybe overjoyed with the cabinet’s recent decision on maternity leave, but there are questions on what will happen in the corporate and private sector.
The cabinet, this week, decided that civil servant mothers will get a fully paid six month maternity leave, followed by an extended six month paternity leave where either of the parent can work only till 1 pm for six months but still get full pay.
The decision has been sent to the RCSC which is expected to implement it from 1st January 2016 onwards.
Though the cabinet only discussed the Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC) proposal for civil servants the government will also soon be working with the corporate sector and the private sector on the maternity leave issue.
“Our overall national objective is to extend proper care for the mother and the child,” said Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay.
The PM said that he would like to call on the corporate and private sector to work together with the government on the issue of maternity leave.
“We will encourage and perhaps even support the corporate and private sector to bring about similar facilities to improve support for parents and children,” said the PM.
The government is expected to have an easier time with the corporate sector given that the corporate sector traditionally tends to insure that their Human Resource rules and benefits are in line with government rules and practices.
The Corporate sector consists of the State Owned Enterprises directly under the Ministry of Finance like Bhutan Agro, Bhutan Development Bank Limited, Bhutan Broadcasting Service, Kuensel, Food Corporation of Bhutan etc on one hand and then the Druk Holding Investment Companies which helps manage major corporations for the government. All government shares in DHI companies are held by the Ministry of Finance.
The Prime Minister said that the government will talk to and work with the corporations on the issue.
The Finance Minister Lyonpo Namgay Dorji said, “We would expect corporations to give due consideration so that people in the corporations can benefit. The government will take the lead role in sitting and discussing with the corporations so that it is in the interest of both women and the corporations.”
In an earlier interview the Finance Minister had said that the trend is that beneficial measures adopted by the government for the civil service are normally followed by corporations.
The original government maternity leave report given to the RCSC for their consideration in January 2015 included the corporate sector as well. The RCSC, given its mandate, decided to stick to only civil servants.
The much trickier issue will be in the private sector with all types of sizes of companies from the richest and the biggest companies to shops engaged in retail will be involved.
The PM admitted that relevant ministries and agencies like the Ministry of Labour among others will look into what would be feasible in the private sector.
A government official said that in the case of the private sector everything will be looked at from possible subsidies and tax incentives to other measures and their implications and implementation issues for maternal leave. There are, also concerns on impact on the private sector, what any measure would cost the government, and also concern around private companies being dishonest to get gains.
The original 2015 January government proposal on maternity leave had one option where in addition to the existing eight months maternity leave private companies could give seven months flexi time.
The official said that the issue is not about just money as there were big private companies that were far richer then government companies but they may not want their profitability and dividends to be affected. He said that in the case of corporations since it was government money there is more willingness to implement such measures.
The Finance Minister said that he understood there would be resistance from the private sector but it should also not hamper the employment of women.
The Prime Minister said that the issue of maternity leave in the private sector would be looked at from all perspectives. Lyonchhen made it clear that at the moment no specific directives would be issued to the private sector until more studies and consultations are not done for the private sector.