Druk Holding and Investments (DHI) implemented the extended six-month maternity leave in DHI and DHI owned companies from July 1, more than two years after the Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC) implemented the revised maternity leave.

The decision is expected to benefit more than 2,000 female employees of DHI and DHI owned companies. There are 1,861 female employees in DHI and DHI owned companies and 617 in DHI controlled and linked companies, as of December 31, 2017.

Employees who are currently on maternity leave will be eligible for six months maternity leave from the date of birth of the child, and those who have resumed office but whose child has not turned six months as of July 1, 2018 can avail the balance leave.

An official with DHI said that DHI and its companies had several rounds of discussions in DHI board meetings, CEO (chief executive officer) round table meetings and CXO (corporate executives) human resources forums.

The official said that a study was conducted by DHI and DHI owned companies in 2016 to look at the feasibility of revising the maternity leave.

Labour and human resources ministry also formed a task force consisting of members from DHI, finance ministry, state owned enterprises (SOEs), Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industry and civil society organisations to study the enhancement of parental leave in these organisations. The task force came up with a report-recommending enhancement of maternity leave.

“In keeping with these recommendations and also following an executive order from the finance ministry, the maternity leave in DHI and DHI owned companies was revised after detailed discussion,” the official said. “We also kept in mind that the initiative is in the larger interest of our society, nation and female employees in particular.”

A circular states that the maternity leave of six months for female employees will be granted per confinement and shall be uniform for all births including twins, caesarean and premature births.

However, contract employees who have not completed 12 months of service before applying for the leave will be eligible for only three months of maternity leave.

It states that those who are currently on earned leave or extraordinary leave in respect of childcare can convert their remaining leave into maternity leave from July 1, 2018. However, there will be no retrospective application of maternity or paternity leave and conversion of other leaves taken prior to June 30, 2018 to maternity or paternity leave.

The employees will receive their salary and allowances as usual unless otherwise specified in respective service rules for specific positions.

The official said that while there is a small financial implication of the enhanced maternity leave on the companies, DHI implemented the revised maternity leave with a hope that the initiative would contribute towards the larger interest of the nation, especially to working mothers and their babies.

In the event of miscarriage, female employees will receive maternity leave for a month upon production of medical certificate.

While, in case of demise of child during birth or within three months from birth, the mother will be eligible for three months of maternity leave including 21 days of bereavement leave, whichever is more.

The mother will be eligible for only 21 days of bereavement leave in case of demise of child after three months from birth. “The mother shall resume her office after completion of the bereavement leave,” the circular states.

It states that maternity leave shall commence one month prior to the date of confinement and shall, in any event, commence from the date of delivery.

Maternity leave can be combined with any other forms of leave and shall be counted as part of active service for all Human Resources actions.

Employees who become parents during the period of study leave or EOL (extra-ordinary leave) will only be eligible for the balance maternity leave if their child has not attained six months on joining services after leave or EOL.

Employees returning to work from maternity leave shall be entitled to return to the same or a similar position to the one they held before commencing the leave.

Upon returning from a maternity leave, a nursing mother should be permitted to interrupt her work every four hours for an hour to nurse the child until the child is two years.  This is mainly to facilitate baby feeding. The interruptions should be treated as active duty for which the employee should be paid.

Meanwhile, male employees will be granted paternity leave of 10 working days uniformly for all births and shall commence from the date of delivery. Employees who become father during the period of their study or EOL will not be eligible for paternity leave.

In case of demise of a mother during delivery or within six months from birth of the child, the father will be eligible for six months or the remaining months of the maternity leave as extra-ordinary paternity leave until the child is six months old.

The extended maternity leave is implemented in 12 DHI and DHI owned companies.

DHI controlled companies, State Trading Corporation of Bhutan Ltd and Dungsam Polymers Ltd, and DHI linked companies, Penden Cement Authority Ltd, Bhutan Board Product Ltd, Bhutan Ferro Alloys Ltd, and Royal Insurance Corporation of Bhutan Ltd are yet to implement six months maternity leave.

“We would encourage the companies to revise their parental leave provision with the support of other stakeholders,” the official said.

There are nine DHI owned companies, five DHI controlled companies, and five DHI linked companies.

Dechen Tshomo