While new mothers in the civil service have six months of maternity leave for exclusive breast feeding, many government owned corporate employees are increasingly left wondering about maternity leave for them.
These doubts can now be assuaged with the Prime Minister Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay saying that the government would have to intervene if any of the State Owned Enterprises fail to implement maternity leave reforms in their respective organizations.
The PM said, “The government has left it up to the SOEs and so we should allow it to happen but the government can also intervene in a legal manner if they don’t do it.”
“We have already told them that the government expects it to be done,” he said.
Lyonchhen said that the government can legally facilitate and help within the laws.
While the Druk Holding’s Investment has already asked its companies to do their own studies and present their own reports to DHI, the other State Owned Enterprises that are directly under the Ministry of Finance are faced with a more complicated scenario.
Earlier in April the Ministry of Finance said that it was doing its own study on maternity leave and once that was done the report would be communicated to its SOE’s. However, the latest development is that it has been left to the respective SOE’s to come with their own proposals.
The difficulty is that most of the MoF SOE’s are either unclear or a few others are not willing due to the limited profitability and even direct need for subsidies from the MoF.
The MoF SOEs include companies like Bhutan Development Bank Limited, Bhutan Broadcasting Service, Kuensel, Food Corporation of Bhutan, Bhutan Lottery, Bhutan Duty Free, etc.
Meanwhile, DHI Chairman Dasho Sangay Khandu said that DHI in the CEO’s round table meeting had communicated to the individual companies to come up with their own maternity leave reports based on their perspectives.
The Chairman said that on the issue of maternity leave it is the elected government’s political decision and so he would not want to comment on it.
He said that DHI will take more of the social and economic considerations and a detailed study will be done. Dasho said that it cannot be a short term report focused just within Bhutan.
“We have to ensure the unit cost of the company is the same as in the region, so we are not in a hurry,” said Dasho.
Meanwhile, the PM said that he would not like to leave it just at the civil service and corporations. He said that he would like to have discussions with the private sector to see how the government can encourage similar facilities for women.
In March 2016 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.
She had said that 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.
She had said that being the first step they would like to encourage government corporations to adopt maternity leave.
Lyonpo had pointed out that in the case of the private sector not everybody can afford it and so the ones who can afford it should set good examples.