The commission will at last go beyond paying lip service to the importance of breast-feeding

RCSC: In what could come as good news for working mothers, the Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC) has started reviewing measures to make working conditions more favourable for breastfeeding mothers.

The commission’s chairperson, Karma Tshiteem, said the Bhutan Civil Service Rules and Regulations 2012 (BCSR) already has provisions for flexi-timing and facilitation of breast feeding mothers at work.

“But due to lack of clear framework for implementation, there is no consistency in uniform application of such provisions,” the chairperson said.

Given the importance of breastfeeding and its underlying health impact to the population, the commission is looking at providing extended paid maternity leave and granting a year long unpaid maternity leave to enable mothers to spend more time with their newborns.

“RCSC is also working on extending the baby feeding hours (noon to 2 pm) from a year to two years for mothers,” the chairperson said.

The commission is also looking at incorporating a flexi-leave (flexi-timing) for 24 months, where the nursing mother will choose her working hours for the day.

Other government agencies, such as schools and hospitals, that do not follow the 9-5 working hours, will also be encouraged to introduce crèche services, he said.

The move to create a favourable working condition for breastfeeding mothers came after the works and human settlement minister, in the capacity of NCWC chairperson submitted a proposal on the ‘Extension of Maternity Leave’ to the commission last January.

The former commission members had directed the policy and planning division of RCSC to review the proposal, the chairperson said.  The proposal was, however, put on hold, on the understanding that the second Pay Commission would address it.

“Since the second Pay Commission hasn’t worked on it, the present commission has given directives to the RCSC to review these initiatives,” he said. “Further consultations with relevant agencies and civil servants will be conducted before finalising it.”

As the central personnel agency for the government, RCSC recognises the importance of creating workplace conditions that are family friendly and reduce the artificial choice between family and career, especially for women, the chairperson said.

“As you can imagine, doing so is in the interest of a country, especially given our size, we must tap the potential of all our human resources,” he said.

The government had also pledged to add nine extra months of flexi-time, with 50 percent reduced workload in the first 100 days of office.

However, lack of uniformity in the implementation of flexi-timing and no clear framework for flexi-timing are some of the practical difficulties the commission had faced while implementing them in the past.

“Some measures may not be practical to all professions and there is a resistance to change traditional mind-set of keeping a child at home rather than avail crèche services,” officials said.

A World Health Organisation report on the optimal duration of exclusive breastfeeding recommends an optimal duration from four to six months for exclusive breastfeeding.

Meanwhile, labour officials said mothers working in private and corporate sectors get a minimum of two months of paid maternity leave.

“Extended maternity leave could impact women employment,” labour officials said. “Like some of the ministries, we’re also looking into possibilities of opening day care services for parents who are working in the ministry.”

Records with RCSC show that, as of December 2014, there are 8,992 female civil servants, which is 34.16 percent of more than 25,000 civil servants in total.

Education and training services have the highest number of female civil servants at 12.15 percent, which includes teachers, management and educational support services.  It’s followed by those in general administration and support services group at 5.69 percent, and medical and health services group with 4.54 percent.

The sector with the lowest number of female civil servants falls under the arts, culture and literary group, which includes culture officers and translation services, among others, at 0.02 percent.

By Thinley Zangmo