All government-owned corporations should revise maternity leave from three months to six months from January next year.

A circular to revise parental leave for private and corporate sectors was issued by the Department of Macroeconomic Affairs under the finance ministry.

The September 20, circular that was also copied to the labour ministry, stated that a directive from the government on September 14 states that maternity and paternity leave in the government-owned corporations must be enforced at par with civil servants.

The ministry of finance received the directives from the Cabinet, which directed all state-owned enterprises (SOE) to revise the maternity leave. There are 19 SOEs including direct and indirect shareholding.

The circular comes at a time when debate on paid maternity leave is still going on for the corporate and private sector.

A labour ministry official said that since the directives is from the Cabinet, all corporations may have to follow and implement the six-month maternity leave.

The official said that a proposal was submitted to the Cabinet to allow six-month maternity leave for government-owned corporations while the ministry is working on convincing private sector to revise the maternity leave.

“Although only about five private organisations have agreed to revise to six months, most have agreed to revise to three months from two,” the official said. “Some private organisations are still working on it and about 187 companies have agreed for three months as of March 5 this year.”

In the last National Assembly session on May 15, labour minister Ngeema Sangay Tshempo, 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.

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

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.

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

Yangchen C Rinzin