KP Sharma

The Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC) has proposed a shift from the current contract employment system to a new  status, “para regular” for civil servants on contract.

Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay, during the fourth Meet-the-Press session held yesterday, announced the change. Following a detailed study by a cabinet sub-committee, the proposal was reviewed and endorsed by the cabinet before reaching the RCSC.

The commission deliberated on the sub-committee’s comprehensive report during its second meeting on May 29 and the RCSC endorsed the recommendation with some changes on the same day.

The RCSC  highlighted the importance of maintaining meritocracy within the civil service and cautioned that any changes in the benefits and employment status of employees on contract should not negatively impact the recruitment and potential of regular civil servants.

The heart of the RCSC’s proposal lies in the creation of a “para regular” employment type.

This fixed-term category would see changes of contract employees to a new type of employment with service agreements. In addition, the RCSC suggested merging the existing consolidated and regular contract types into this single para regular category.

The response also addresses benefits for para regular employees. RCSC recommended extending full provident fund benefits, at par with regular civil servants, instead of the previously proposed 5 percent increase in the report.

However, the enhanced benefit would replace the current 30 percent contract allowance.

The RCSC also expressed potential administrative challenges within the secretariat in implementing these changes.

The government’s pledge to regularise contract employees was a major election  campaign promise. As of March 2024, Bhutan has over 5,000 contract employees compared to a much larger regular civil service force of about 24,000.

The push for regularisation is expected to address longstanding concerns about the disparity in benefits and job security of contract employees.

Some contract employees have served for longer periods without access to the same facilities and perks enjoyed by their regular counterparts. This lack of parity has been viewed as unfair, particularly for those approaching retirement who may struggle financially without the same level of benefits.

In addition, contract employees often faced difficulties in obtaining loans and other financial support due to their employment status.

While the prospect of regularisation offers advantages for contract employees, some regular civil servants have expressed concerns about fairness.

They point to the rigorous Bhutan Civil Service Examination (BCSE) and other requirements they had to fulfill to secure regular service.

The RCSC’s proposed changes aims to strike a balance between addressing the needs of contract employees and upholding the integrity of the existing civil service system.