Govt to help bear costs of leave

Mother and child at a mall. Rules have been issued for maternity leave in the private sector. Picture: BT/Rudolf Portillo

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

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Correction

WITH reference to the report titled "Govt to help bear costs of leave" published on the front page of The Brunei Times on Wednesday, January 5, 2011, it should have read the employer will pay the salary of an employee who has gone on maternity leave for the first eight weeks and the following five weeks (the ninth week).

However, employers can claim the costs of the salary in those five weeks from the government.

The error is regretted.

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Maternity leave rules for Brunei citizens, permanent residents in private sector

HIS Majesty's Government will bear the costs of salaries to be paid to private sector employees during the first five weeks of their 15-week maternity leave. This entitlement for private sector employees applies only to Brunei citizens and permanent residents.

In a press statement released yesterday, the Public Service Department (JPA) said the five weeks' cost, in terms of salary, of the total 15-week maternity leave for Brunei citizens and permanent residents will be borne by the government.

Private sector employers have been instructed to initially cover the costs of the five weeks' worth of salaries of employees availing themselves of the new Order. Employers are entitled to claim reimbursement from the government "afterwards", JPA said.

The government will assess its "assistance" in paying the wages every five years.

The department also said that the last two weeks of the 15-week maternity leave would be unpaid leave. The two weeks was an extension of the former one-week unpaid leave previously imposed in Brunei, when the maternity leave was set at just eight consecutive weeks or 56 days.

A JPA spokesperson told The Brunei Times yesterday that it was up to the employers whether they wanted to opt to pay their employees' wages during the "unpaid leave period".

"It's up to the individual companies. If they want to pay (the salaries during the last two weeks of the maternity leave), they can, but it's not mandatory," the official said, asking not to be named.

The department also said that only Brunei citizens and permanent residents registered with the Employees Trust Fund (TAP) are eligible for the new maternity leave, which was announced by His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam in welcoming the new year. For employees not covered by the new regulations, their maternity leave rights remain as stipulated within the Employment Order 2009.

The maternity leave regulations 2011 for the private sector also provides for the event of miscarriage, a feature that is new to maternity leave in Brunei.

Earlier, the Prime Minister's Office issued the rules governing the 105-day maternity leave for civil servants.

JPA said that in the event that a miscarriage occurs within the first 24 weeks of pregnancy, the employee will be granted sick leave. If a miscarriage occurs after the 24 week-period, then the employee will only be granted eight weeks of maternity leave, during which the cost of paying for her salary for five weeks are borne by the government and the remaining three by the employer.

Employers are instructed to pay the wages first and then claim reimbursement from the government.

Approval for both the sick leave and maternity leave, which must be taken two weeks prior to the employee's due date, must be verified by a "government medical officer".

Other conditions are subject to the rules enforced that govern it at the time, the department said.

The new maternity leave went into effect on January 1, 2011, and is the result of His Majesty's scrutiny of the previous maternity leave of 56 days imposed and left "unrevised" for at least two decades in Brunei.

Taking the example of other countries and the International Labour Organisation, which recommends maternity leave of at least 12 weeks, the monarch raised in October last year the issue of Brunei's own maternity leave.

In his New Year's eve titah, the monarch announced that the government will be enforcing the new regulation, known as the Maternity Leave Order 2011, as a measure towards coordinating the pre- and post-natal needs and health interest of mothers.

Mothers have welcomed the move and even suggested the government consider revising paternity leave to complement the new directive.

The Brunei Times