The National Assembly on May 15 resolved that the government, non-government organisations, private and corporate sectors should continue to support the increasing maternity leaves as per the national feeding policy.

The Speaker Jigme Zangpo said that the government, including the members of the parliament, should continue to increase the awareness on the importance of breastfeeding for six months.

Labour minister Ngeema Sangay Tshempo presented a report on the implementation status.

The report was as per the resolution of 8th session of Parliament where the Speaker had asked the government to update on the implementation of maternity leave in the private sector by closely working with the sectors.

Members from the Opposition raised a concern on the validity.

The Panbang’s members of parliament, Dorji Wangdi, said that the report could not be considered valid because it should have been in the written form.

“There were also repetition of statements and information, which was confusing and that written report should be considered important,” he said. “Nothing was clear and verbal report shouldn’t be accepted, which didn’t have any concrete recommendations.”

The Speaker also reminded the house that hereafter any kind of report should be presented in the written format and distributed among the members for further discussion.

The labour minister said that a study was conducted on the possibility of increasing maternity leave for women in the corporate and private sectors. A six-member committee was formed. The committee comprised of representatives from labour ministry, Bhutan Chambers of Commerce and Industries, National Commission for Women and Children, Druk Holding Investments, civil society organisations, and finance ministry.

Lyonpo said after series of discussions that some recommended that it was not convenient to implement as per the policy but government should continue to create awareness on breastfeeding. He added that some members recommended that if big private organisations and corporations implement the policy first, the rest may follow.

The committee had also recommended increasing the paternity leave from five to 10 days.

“Two months maternity leave and five days paternity leave in the private and corporate sectors already exist in the Labour Act 2007,” Lyonpo said, adding that there are total of 352,953 employees, out of which, 164,909 are women.

He added that a total of 166 private and corporate firms have agreed to increase maternity leave to three months following a series of discussions and consultations.

Four corporations – Construction Development Corporation, Rural Enterprise Development Corporation Limited, Bhutan Agro Industry, and National Housing Development Corporation – have committed to increase the maternity leave to six months from two months.

Lyonpo added that there is 10 crèches with 196 children to help working mothers.

“The ministry is also discussing the possibilities of recruiting permanent caretaker and to pay them based on a qualification,” Lyonpo said.

The minister said that 12 companies under the DHI are yet to submit the two recommendations on increasing maternity leave to the board members for approval. The companies have recommended maternity leave from two months to four months, two hours breastfeeding everyday for a year with full salary or three months to six months and half day off with full salary.

Of the 10 private schools in the country that has 130 female teachers, Lyonpo said, some have opted for three months or more.

However, some of the members said that the maternity leave policy should be implemented uniformly.

Yangchen C Rinzin