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When it comes to a maternity leave or paternity leave, parents in the Caribbean municipalities of the Netherlands still have fewer rights than parents in the European part of the Netherlands. Several entrepreneurs tell how ‘financially and emotionally difficult’ this is for them.

Expectant mothers with their own business are not eligible for paid maternity leave on Bonaire, Saba and Statia, while mothers in the exact same situation in the European Netherlands are entitled to a benefit of at least 16 weeks.

“It’s an awful situation,” says independent entrepreneur Marlene. She gave birth to twins three months ago. During her pregnancy she found out that she was not entitled to benefits. It caused a lot of stress. “In retrospect, that may have caused me to work too hard and too much.”

‘Financially and emotionally difficult’
Because of early contractions, Marlene was flown to Curaçao at her 31 weeks of pregnancy. Until she gave birth, she was often alone, because her partner simply still had to work in Bonaire. It was also a difficult period for her financially also. “As an entrepreneur, I no longer received anything and my partner of course does not get paid if he doesn’t show up at work.”

Fathers also have fewer rights in the Caribbean municipalities. When one of her daughters had to stay in intensive care for two weeks after giving birth, her boyfriend was there. But once home in Bonaire, he was only allowed time off to report the children at the municipality office.

Marlene sometimes thinks about how things could have been different if there had been a more extensive leave arrangement for the special municipalities, just like in the European part of the Netherlands. “It would have given me a lot more peace of mind to discover parenthood together, and find a rhythm together. But, unfortunately..”

‘Why does this not apply to Bonaire?’
Laura gave birth to her first child 12 weeks ago. Together with her husband she has her own company on Bonaire. Where in the European Netherlands they would both qualify for a ‘Self-employed and Pregnant scheme’, they get nothing at all on in the Caribbean municipality. “Very unfortunate, very remarkable,” says Laura. “Why not here? This is not okay.”

It also brought concerns during pregnancy. “Projects and deadlines just kept going and because there are only two of us, my husband had to do everything alone when I took time off.”

“We are lucky that we can financially afford to take time off, but I think there are many families who cannot do that,” says Laura. “They may have to go back to work immediately after the birth of their child! I think that’s very bad.”

‘A great deal of extra care and responsibility’
Marijenia also fears that women will have to work extra hours. She is expecting her third child. It’s her first pregnancy since becoming an independent entrepreneur. “It is really important not to work during your pregnancy and afterwards, but without compensation it will be difficult to pay for everything.”

Marijenia hopes that change will come as soon as possible for the three special municipalities. “Having a child comes with a big responsibility, and extra care!” 

Response of the Ministry
The ministry of Social Affairs and Employment has stated in a response that it is still unclear when the leave scheme will be extended. “The intended entry into force is the 1st of July 2024. But that will depend on when it will be discussed in the House of Representatives. Unfortunately, we don’t know that yet.”