Except for three state owned enterprises (SOE), which have already implemented it, the remaining 12 companies would have to implement the revised maternity leave from three months to six months from January next year as per the Cabinet’s directives.

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

The Bhutan Civil Service Rules (BCSR) 2012, which earlier prescribed three-months maternity leave and a five-day paternity leave for civil servants, was amended to six months last year.

A majority of the chief executive officers (CEO) acknowledged the receipt of the letter and said that since it is cabinet’s directives, they have little option but to implement the notification from next year.

This would happen, they said, even if it would affect the company.

Although the six months maternity would affect service delivery, Food Corporation of Bhutan Limited’s CEO, Karma Nidup, said they have endorsed the government directives during the 100th board meeting. The corporation has about 600 employees with a male to female ratio of 1:3.

Royal Bhutan Helicopter Service Limited’s CEO Chewang Gyeltshen said that although they are yet to get the circular, they would have to apply the six months maternity leave and change the service rule. “We might have to build up a human resources strategy. We’ve 17 female employees.”

Some CEOs said that if seen from the commercial aspect, the move would have implications and affect service delivery.

But companies like Bhutan Post had already planned to grant six months maternity since the government was implementing it and was awaiting directives. “Now that we got the directives, we’ll apply the leave from January next year,” an official said.

Some companies have almost 70 percent female employees.

Bhutan Broadcasting Service Limited’s managing director, Tshering Wangchuk said that a committee had studied the impact of maternity leave and found that it would not have much effect. “So we would be applying the six months maternity leave as per the directives,” he said.

Three SOEs, Rural Enterprise Development Corporation Limited (REDCL), National Housing Development Corporation (NHDC), and Bhutan Agro Industries Limited (BAIL) had implemented the six months maternity leave even before the notification was circulated.

Some female staff have already availed the six months maternity leave. REDCL’s CEO, Pema Wangdi, said that although it would affect the company with additional cost, but being a government corporation, the female employees deserved equal benefit as those in the civil service. “We’d already planned and it was approved as per the labour service rule. The decision was implemented since January this year.”

NHDCL CEO, Thinley Dorji, said that since only one or two females would be on maternity leave in a year, it would not make a huge impact on the company and the board approved it.

Labour minister Ngeema Sangay Tshempo said that the ministry had submitted the proposal for revision of parental leave to the cabinet during the ninth parliament session and the finance ministry was directed to provide leave as commensurate with civil service from January 1 2018.

“The ministry shall monitor the implementation of revised leave from January 2018,” he said. “However, regarding the private sector, the government views that enforcing such leave would be complex. Besides, there is a possibility of it adversely affecting employment of women in private sector.”

About 187 private companies have agreed to give three months maternity leave as of March 5 this year.

The circular was also issued to Druk Holding Investment (DHI). DHI CEO Dasho Karma Yezer Raydi said that they are yet to reach a decision. “We can’t say if it would implement six months or if they would suggest different options. We already discussed twice but nothing was settled.”

There are 10 DHI owned companies, four DHI controlled companies, and five DHI linked companies.

Yangchen C Rinzin