Govt. push for extended maternity leave, RCSC recommends parental leave

Civil Service: While civil servants are expecting a decision on the much-awaited six months maternity leave, the Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC) and the Cabinet couldn’t arrive to an understanding to implement the decision.

Both the Cabinet and RCSC agreed on two of the three recommendations- extension of paid maternity leave from three to six months and paternity leave from five to 10 days.

However, it is still not decided if working parents would be granted “parental leave”, as recommended by RCSC or Cabinet’s decision of “extended maternity leave,” both in consideration to leave until the child turns one.

If authority is with the cabinet, Lyonchoen Tshering Tobgay said, it has decided to implement the extended maternity leave.

However, the Prime Minister, during the meet-the-press session yesterday informed that RCSC had responded to the Cabinet saying that the commission doesn’t require approval from the government, except for the budget requirements.

“If granting leave is RCSC’s prerogative, then we will not put our hands,” he said. But if this is the case, he said RCSC should not have put up the proposal to the Cabinet in the first place.

“Although we never said it is our authority, we worked as per their letter and recommendations,” he said.

Following a proposal from the government in January this year and a study by the commission, RCSC recommended that either of the parents could stay home for another six months receiving half the monthly salary, half of the housing allowance and no professional allowance. This is termed parental leave.

RCSC also worked out another option allowing either parent to take flexi time of doing 50 percent work and receive full salary.

The works and human settlement minister, Dorji Choden said parental leave would be difficult to implement and monitor. She said that there is a probability that fathers may avail the six-month leave and work elsewhere while he still gets half the remuneration from the civil service.

“For infants, with an apology to all the fathers, mothers are more important,” she said. “So the Cabinet’s idea of extended maternity leave is only eligible for mothers who will have to work for half a day (9am to 1pm) but will be receiving full pay package including the allowances.”

This, she said would not only ensure continuity in their field of work, but also save the government coffers without having to recruit new people.

Lyonchoen Tshering Tobgay added that not many civil servants could afford to avail the parental leave since either of the parents would only receive half the remuneration.

If civil servants take parental leave and start working elsewhere, he said, this will set a bad precedence.

The Cabinet is of the view that, extended maternity leave will keep mothers away from work for only two to three hours in the afternoon, excluding the lunch break.

The Prime Minister said that, if civil servants want to, they can finish their work within an hour.

Even today, he said civil servants take home works to complete pending works. “So mothers can do that although not compulsory,” he said.

When it comes to nurses and teachers, Lyonchoen said it is bit inconvenient. “But as long as nurses work between 9am and 1 pm, it is fine,” he said. For teachers, he said, an arrangement could be made where mothers teaching particular subject(s) could be shifted in the morning sessions.”

The health minister, Tandin Wangchuk said extended maternity leave would take care of both flexi leave and parental leave. In fact both options of the RCSC are merged.

The RCSC submitted the proposal on November 26, last year and was endorsed by the Cabinet on December 25, with the changes reflected as extended maternity leave.

The government also issued a directive to all government agencies to develop crèches in office premises to provide parental support to child between one and three years of age.

The National Commission of Women and Children (NCWC) in consultation with RCSC will be also developing an operation guideline for management and operation of crèches.

Tshering Dorji