NA subcommittee approves bill for daycares in offices

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Saddia Mazhar,

ISLAMABAD: To make it mandatory to establish a daycare center with maximum of 25 saffer in every public or private sector office a subcommittee of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Human Rights approved a bill on Thursday.

MNA Shazia Marri moved the Day Care Centres Bill 2019 . Ms Marri ,while briefing the committee members on the bill said many women do not work because they have to stay home and look after their children.

The bill would also make it a criminal offence not to have a daycare in the workplace in these circumstances. It says that the owner of in-charge of a non-compliant workplace would first receive a warning, then a fine of Rs100,000 and then six months in prison.

She added that husbands also push women to quit their jobs and take care of children, as it is unsafe to leave children alone at home. She said that according to an International Monetary Fund report, Pakistan can increase its GDP by 30pc if women start working.

“My child was five years old when I became active in politics, which made it impossible for me to give time. I was lucky that my sister Quratulain Marri, who is also a senator, looked after my child. This bill was originally moved by my sister and passed by the Senate; I am defending the bill in the National Assembly and request that the committee pass it because of its importance,” she said.

Ms Marri said that women are 24pc of Pakistan’s labour force, and their participation would increase further if it was made mandatory for every office with 70 staff members to establish a daycare.

She said the bill deliberately does not mention the number of women staffers, as officials would just appoint fewer women to avoid establishing daycares.

“Moreover, there can be single male or female parents and they will also be able to keep children at centres,” she said.

Ms Marri said that the bill includes punishments for non-compliance: the first time, a warning will be issued to the owner or in-charge, the second time a fine of Rs100,000 would be imposed and then they would be sentenced to six months in prison.

MNA Shaista Pervaiz agreed with the bill, but suggested reducing the number of mandatory staff members to 25 so that all banks, offices, factories and so on establish daycares.

MNA Shunila Ruth said the issue was very close to her heart, adding that a number of companies, including Coca-Cola, do not provide daycare facilities.

Committee chair Mahreen Razzaq Bhutto said daycares should be established at offices.

The committee decided that the minimum number of staffers required to establish a daycare would be 25, and newborns up to children at the age of 10 would be able to stay there.

Although the bill has been passed in Senate, two amendments have been suggested so, after it is voted on in the National Assembly, the bill will be forwarded to the Senate again for voting.