Senator Uduch Sengebau-Senior and Senator Rukebai Inabo explaining the maternity leave bill during the Family Hour talk show with Rumi Reklai and Philome Temengil on September 28. (photo credit: Palau Wave Radio)

The Maternity Leave bill (SB 10-52,SD3) has been sent back to Olbiil Era Kelulau by President Tommy E. Remengesau Jr. with recommendations for improvements as SB 10-52,SD3, PD1.

The bill is to provide support for new Palauan mothers and their families by mandating employers to provide new mothers with one-month paid and one-month unpaid leave to care for their newborns.

In his referral letter to Senate President Hokkons Baules, President Remengesau said that he supports the intent of the bill but as it is written, it will not “provide the outcome” it intends.

The bill as it is written, applies only to Palauan women and spouses of Palauan men, and will make Palauan workers “more expensive in comparison to foreign workers”, stated Remengesau’s referral message.

Remengesau in the referral bill (PD1) included all female employees in the maternity leave.  Furthermore, he expanded the bill to include fathers and parents who adopt a child.

“If employers must pay Palauan workers during periods of leave but not need to pay foreign workers in the same way, then employers will be incentivized to hire foreign workers, placing Palauans at a disadvantage.”

Moreover, he expanded the bill to include requirement for paid annual leave and paid sick leave for all employees.  Currently, there is no law requiring employers to provide paid annual leave and sick leave for their employees. 

“Without such requirement, employees must choose between the needs of their own and their families’ health and the demands of the workplace.”

Only national government through Bureau of Public Service System Regulations provides annual leave and sick leave to government employees but no law exists mandating that all employers provide these benefits.

The President’s version (PD1) on paid annual and sick leave, only applies to employers with five or more employees and have annual gross revenue of $500,000.  The maternity leave applies to all employers regardless of size.  Also, the maternity leave is in addition to annual and sick leave. 

The bill sets up penalty of up to five thousand ($5,000) paid to an aggrieved employee by the employer plus other costs of bringing the case to court.

The President’s version of the bill, SB 10-52,SD3,PD1 must be agreed to by both Senate and House in order to pass.  If either one of both houses rejects the PD1 version of bill, the bill itself will die. 

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