photo: Marit Severijnse

Parents and expectant parents shared their bewilderment before with Caribbean Network about maternity leave on Bonaire. Now, more than a year later, nothing has changed for the Dutch-Caribbean islands.

Where fathers in salaried employment in the European Netherlands have the right to fully paid leave, on the islands they have to make do with the two single days their employer grants them.

The right to zero days of additional birth leave

In European-Holland fathers have a right to additional birth leave (5 weeks with 70% of their salary), but not so for fathers on the islands.

Because of this many mothers get into trouble after birth because they are left all alone to manage, so the different stories tell us. ”I really missed the after-care after delivering my baby”, says Angela. She has given birth about ten weeks ago. ”In continental Netherlands, a maternity nurse helps with jobs around the house, but we do not have that here either.”

Why can’t a father work on bonding over here?

Amber also thinks that there should be change. She gave birth to her second baby three months ago. “In the Netherlands, this has been in place for a long time. Why can’t a father over here work on bonding with his child? This is very important because for a father bonding can only start after birth”, she says.

“In those first days, you also have to register your child. I’m not even talking about help around the house, recovering after a cesarean section, or after giving birth. Whenever is there time to recover together after birth, to get accustomed to the new situation, or to enjoy it together?”

Lack of maternity leave is a great miss

Angela’s mother came to Bonaire after a week to support her. “That was a great help. And I had an easy deliverance and was able to potter around after a few days. That would have been very different if I’d had a cesarean section. Also, additional fully paid leave like in the continental Netherlands, 70 percent of daily wages for 5 weeks, is sorely missed, says Angela. I would have wanted to make use of that 100 percent. I dreaded going to work again with a little baby of ten weeks.”

Angela’s partner has had his own company for several years. “After the birth of our son, I did not work for two days, and after that, I took half day off to be there for Angela”, says Virgilio. Of course, I would have liked to take care of her longer, but there is also money to be earned.”

It’s about good old-fashioned role division

According to Amber, there should be a change in how we think about gender roles.” For instance, everyone assumes that it is the mother who should take days off to stay home when the child is sick. It is a pity and crooked thinking because you’re both parents. You should balance that out together.”

The ball is in parliament’s court

Social benefits in the Caribbean municipalities, Bonaire, Saba, and Statia are significantly lower compared to those in the European Netherlands. Social welfare is much lower, there is no social benefit when you lose your job, and a (BSN) Citizen Service Number does not exist.

The Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour states in a reaction that it is still unclear when the maternity leave regulation will be extended. “The goal is for the first of July 2024, but that depends on when it will be treated in parliament. And that regrettably we do not know.”