Extended maternity leave for islands not until 2017

The extension of maternity leave in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba will become a fact in the future, but it can only go into effect per January 1, 2017, for budget-technical reasons, Dutch Minister of Social Affairs and Employment Jetta Klijnsma informed the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament on Tuesday.

Klijnsma expressed sympathy for the motion of Member of the Second Chamber Roelof van Laar of the Labour Party PvdA, which was adopted by Parliament last month following the handling of the 2016 budget for Kingdom Relations.

The motion requested the Dutch Government to check whether it was possible to secure a maternity leave for mothers and a leave for fathers that was similar to the arrangement in the Netherlands no later than January 1, 2017.

Maternity leave in the Netherlands is sixteen weeks, while fathers get a leave of two days when their child is born. Currently the maternity leave in the Caribbean Netherlands is twelve weeks, while new fathers get no time off.

“It is self-evident that government secures an adequate level of protection for the pregnant employee and the employee who has just delivered a baby. It concerns the interest of the protection of the health of the mother and baby,” Klijnsma stated in her letter to Parliament.

“Differences in legislation and the services that government provides to citizens between the Caribbean Netherlands and the Netherlands can be legitimate, but in this case I consider the argument to extend the pregnancy and maternity leave from twelve to sixteen weeks important,” she stated.

Klijnsma calculated the structural cost associated with the extension of the pregnancy and maternity leave for employees at 130,000 euros would make use of the allowance secured in the Caribbean Netherlands Health Insurance Law for a longer period. Government would be paying 80 per cent of the total cost and the employer 20 per cent.

The State Secretary was unable to make a sound promise on an extended pregnancy and maternity leave at this time due to the lack of financial coverage in the 2016 budget, but assured that she would do her utmost to secure the necessary funding in preparing the 2017 budget next year so the new arrangement could go into effect per January 1, 2017.

Klijnsma didn’t make a similar promise for an automatic two-day leave for fathers of newborns. She explained that the islands weren’t accustomed to this phenomenon. “Introduction of this leave implies an additional financial burden for employers, so I consider it necessary to consult the islands on this.”

Involved parties in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba will be asked on the short term to provide their vision on a father’s leave before any decision-taking. According to Klijnsma, this will create a clearer view where measures are needed and desired, while taking into account the wishes of the islands.

The Daily Herald.

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