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Discover everything you need to know about Bhutan

Hire in Bhutan at a glance

Here ares some key facts regarding hiring in Bhutan

Bhutanese Ngultrum
GDP growth
GDP world share
Payroll frequency
Working hours
40 hours/week

Overview in Bhutan

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Bhutan, a landlocked country in the eastern Himalayas, is bordered by China and India and spans about 38,394 square kilometers. Known for its diverse climate and rich biodiversity, Bhutan is considered one of the world's ten biodiversity hotspots. The nation's history dates back to 2000 BCE, with significant Tibetan influence shaping its culture after Buddhism's introduction in the 7th century CE. Bhutan was unified in the 1600s under Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal and later established a hereditary monarchy in 1907, which continues today.

The country's development philosophy, Gross National Happiness (GNH), emphasizes sustainable development, environmental conservation, and cultural preservation. Bhutan's economy relies on hydropower, agriculture, forestry, and tourism, with significant strides made in poverty reduction and education. The majority of Bhutan's workforce is rural, with agriculture being the largest employment sector. However, there is a gender disparity in workforce participation and a skills gap that the government aims to bridge through education reforms and vocational training.

Culturally, Bhutan values politeness, harmony, and indirect communication, with a deep respect for hierarchy and collective goals. The workplace emphasizes teamwork, consultation, and consensus-building, reflecting Buddhist principles and a focus on well-being over economic growth. Emerging sectors in Bhutan's economy include information and communications technology, renewable energy, and sustainable industries, alongside significant contributions from construction, public service, and the services sector supporting tourism.

Taxes in Bhutan

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  • Tax Deducted at Source (TDS): Employers must deduct TDS from employee salaries and deposit it with the government, with rates varying by income type and residency status.
  • Provident Fund Contributions: Employers contribute typically 10% of the employee's basic salary to the Provident Fund, which offers retirement benefits.
  • Corporate Income Tax (CIT): Businesses pay a standard CIT rate of 30% on taxable profits, with annual filings and quarterly payments.
  • Other Tax Obligations: Employers may need to handle Sales Tax and Skills Development Levy, which funds vocational training.
  • Social Security Contributions: Employees contribute 5% of their basic monthly earnings to Bhutan's social security system.
  • VAT Implications: If implemented in Bhutan, VAT would affect pricing, costs, and compliance for businesses, especially in service sectors like hospitality and consulting.
  • Direct and Indirect Tax Incentives: Under Bhutan's Fiscal Incentives Act of 2021, businesses enjoy various tax exemptions and reduced rates, particularly in priority sectors and for environmental upgrades.
  • Eligibility for Tax Incentives: Businesses must obtain approval and comply with specific conditions to benefit from tax incentives, with potential recapture for non-compliance.

Leave in Bhutan

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  • Casual Leave: Under Section 142 of the Labour and Employment Act of Bhutan 2007, employees are entitled to 10 days of paid casual leave annually, typically used for unforeseen personal reasons.

  • Earned Leave: Section 143 allows employees to accrue 30 days of paid earned leave per year after completing one year of continuous service, with the ability to carry forward up to 90 days of unused leave.

  • National and Religious Holidays: Bhutan celebrates various national and religious holidays, including Losar (Bhutanese New Year), the Birthday of King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, Zhabdrung Kuchoe, the Coronation Day of His Majesty The Druk Gyalpo, National Day, Paro Tshechu, Thimphu Tshechu, Blessed Rainy Day, and Dashain.

  • Other Leave Types:

    • Sick Leave: Paid sick leave is provided under Section 144, with a medical certificate required for more than three consecutive days.
    • Maternity Leave: Sections 145-147 grant female employees 70 days of paid maternity leave, with at least 6 weeks post-childbirth.
    • Paternity Leave: 10 days of paid paternity leave as per Section 148.
    • Marriage Leave: 10 days of paid leave for marriage under Section 151.
    • Bereavement Leave: Typically offered by employers though not specified in the Act.
  • Important Notes: Dates for some holidays vary yearly based on the lunisolar calendar. Employers may offer more generous leave entitlements than the statutory minimums, so checking employment contracts and company policies is advised.

Benefits in Bhutan

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Summary of Bhutan's Labour Employment Act of 2007 and Related Benefits

  • Mandatory Benefits: The Labour Employment Act of 2007 in Bhutan mandates several employee benefits including paid time off, family leave, compensation regulations, and a social security system.

  • Paid Time Off: Employees are entitled to 18 days of annual leave, 5 days of sick leave after six months of service, and 16 public holidays.

  • Family Leave: The law provides six months of paid maternity leave and acknowledges paternity leave, though specifics are not detailed.

  • Compensation: A minimum wage is set, varying by industry and location, with overtime paid at 1.5 times the regular rate.

  • Termination: Notice periods are required for termination by either party, with severance pay under certain conditions.

  • Social Security: A provident fund system is in place, requiring contributions from both employers and employees, covering retirement, disability, and survivor benefits.

  • Optional Benefits: Employers may offer health insurance, performance bonuses, profit sharing, flexible work arrangements, childcare support, meal and transportation allowances, and educational reimbursements.

  • Health Initiatives: While not mandatory, some companies provide health insurance. The government offers a Basic Health Services Package and subsidized medicines, with potential plans for a national health insurance scheme.

  • Retirement Benefits: The National Pension and Provident Fund (NPPF) is mandatory, covering both public and private sector employees, with private provident funds available as an optional supplement.

These benefits aim to enhance work-life balance, employee well-being, and financial security, with optional benefits helping companies to attract and retain talent.

Workers Rights in Bhutan

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The Labor and Employment Act of Bhutan 2007, along with subsequent regulations, governs employment laws in Bhutan, detailing the conditions under which employment may be terminated, including misconduct, incapacity, and redundancy. Notice requirements vary, with a minimum of seven days during probation and one to three months post-probation, depending on the role. Severance pay may be required in cases of redundancy or when notice is not properly given.

The Constitution of Bhutan prohibits discrimination based on race, sex, language, religion, politics, or other status, with several mechanisms available for redress including internal grievance procedures, the National Commission for Women and Children, labor tribunals, and the judicial system. Employers are required to implement non-discrimination policies, provide training, and handle complaints effectively.

Work conditions are also regulated, with a standard workweek set at 40 hours and provisions for overtime compensation. Employees are entitled to breaks and rest days, and while specific ergonomic standards are not defined, a safe working environment is mandated. The Department of Labour within the Ministry of Labour and Human Resources oversees the enforcement of these standards, focusing on workplace safety, risk assessments, and employee training. Employees have rights to a safe workplace, can refuse unsafe work, and must be trained on safety procedures.

Agreements in Bhutan

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In Bhutan, employment agreements are categorized into two main types: the Contract of Employment (CDI) and the Fixed-Term Employment Contract (CDD). The CDI is an open-ended contract that can be oral or written, though written contracts are recommended for clarity on job roles and termination conditions. The CDD is for a specific duration or project and must be in writing, with no maximum duration specified by law, but excessively long terms may be legally challenged.

Key elements to include in employment contracts are identification of parties, contract type, job description, compensation details, working hours, leave entitlements, and termination clauses. Additional clauses like confidentiality and non-compete can be included, with the latter being cautiously used due to potential enforceability issues.

Bhutan also supports vocational training through apprenticeships and allows for part-time arrangements via fixed-term contracts. Probationary periods are permissible and should be reasonable and transparent. During probation, reduced notice periods for termination are allowed, but terminations must not be discriminatory.

Confidentiality clauses are generally enforceable in Bhutan, requiring clear definitions of confidential information. Non-compete clauses are less certain and should be narrowly tailored to protect legitimate business interests without overly restricting future employment opportunities. Legal advice is recommended when drafting non-compete clauses due to the evolving legal framework in Bhutan.

Remote Work in Bhutan

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Bhutan is embracing remote work, but lacks specific legislation for it, relying instead on the Labor Act of 2007 which focuses on traditional work settings. Employers and remote workers must create detailed agreements covering work hours, communication, and performance metrics due to the absence of dedicated laws. A robust technological infrastructure is crucial, including reliable internet, secure communication tools, cloud solutions, and strong cybersecurity measures. Employers should develop clear remote work policies, provide necessary equipment and training, and maintain communication to ensure effective remote operations. Additionally, considerations for taxes, work permits, and flexible work arrangements like part-time work, flexitime, and job sharing need clear contractual agreements due to the lack of specific regulations. Bhutan's legal framework for data protection is underdeveloped, though the Constitution guarantees privacy rights. Employers have a duty to protect data, necessitating strong security measures and employee training on data handling. Best practices include using secure communication tools, implementing access controls, encrypting data, and establishing strong password management and remote access protocols.

Working Hours in Bhutan

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Summary of Bhutan's Labor Framework and Regulations:

  • Standard Working Hours: Bhutan's Labour Act of 2007 sets a standard workweek at 48 hours, spread over six days, with a maximum of eight hours per day.
  • Overtime Compensation: Employees working beyond the standard hours are entitled to overtime pay at double the normal hourly wage. Working on rest days earns additional premium pay.
  • Rest and Meal Breaks: The regulations ensure a mandatory rest day per week and suggest reasonable meal and rest breaks during workdays, although specific durations are not mandated.
  • Night Shifts and Weekend Work: While there are no specific regulations for night shifts, the standard 48-hour workweek applies. Overtime rules apply to night shifts exceeding this limit, with additional compensation for weekend work.
  • Employer Responsibilities: Employers must maintain accurate records of overtime hours and ensure a safe and healthy work environment, including during night shifts and extended workdays.
  • Flexibility and Employee Well-being: The framework allows some flexibility in work arrangements but emphasizes compliance with maximum working hours and ensuring employee well-being through adequate compensation and breaks.

Salary in Bhutan

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To attract and retain talent in Bhutan, offering competitive salaries is essential. These salaries should align with the compensation provided for similar roles in the same industry and location, considering factors like job responsibilities, industry standards, education, experience, and specific skills or certifications.

Key Factors Influencing Salaries:

  • Job Title & Responsibilities: Higher responsibilities often lead to higher pay.
  • Industry Standards: Pay varies across industries, with sectors like finance typically offering more than agriculture.
  • Education & Experience: Higher qualifications and more experience can command higher salaries.
  • Location: Urban areas like Thimphu generally offer higher salaries than rural areas.
  • Skillset & Certifications: Specialized skills and certifications can increase earning potential.

Methods to Determine Competitive Salaries:

  • Job Boards & Recruitment Agencies: Provide a general idea of salary ranges.
  • Industry Associations: May offer salary surveys or benchmarks.
  • Government Salary Scales: Useful for reference, particularly for entry-level positions.

Comprehensive Compensation Packages:

  • Provident Fund Contributions: Employers contribute to employees' retirement funds.
  • Paid Time Off: Includes vacation, sick, and personal leave.
  • Training & Development Opportunities: Enhances employee skills and value.

Bhutan does not have a national minimum wage, but the government sets wage rates for public sector workers, which can guide private sector pay. Compensation in the private sector is influenced by market forces, negotiation, and industry standards.

Additional Compensation Considerations:

  • Allowances: Such as housing, transportation, and cost-of-living allowances.
  • Bonuses and Incentives: Including performance-based bonuses and festival bonuses.

Payroll Considerations:

  • Frequency: Typically monthly, but can vary based on agreement.
  • Mandatory Deductions: Include contributions to the provident fund and income tax.
  • Legal Requirements: Employers must comply with the Bhutan Labour Act of 2015, ensuring proper documentation and payment methods.

Understanding these elements helps employers create attractive compensation packages and ensures compliance with Bhutanese labor laws.

Termination in Bhutan

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In Bhutan, the Labour Act of 2007 stipulates a minimum notice period of one month for employment termination, with an exception for educators who require three months. Employment contracts can specify a notice period but cannot be less than the statutory minimum. Failure to provide the required notice results in compensation equal to the basic pay for the unserved period. Additionally, employees are eligible for gratuity payments upon retirement or resignation after at least five years of service, calculated as the last basic pay multiplied by the completed years of service. Termination can occur through various means such as voluntary resignation, mutual agreement, for cause, or due to redundancy. The Act outlines specific procedures and considerations for termination, including the need for documentation, a formal meeting, and adherence to company policies.

Freelancing in Bhutan

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Bhutan's legal framework for distinguishing between employees and contractors involves multiple sources, including The Employment Act of 2006 and The Civil Service Act of 2009, supplemented by common law principles from other jurisdictions. Key distinctions include:

  • Control: Employees face significant employer control over work schedules and methods, whereas contractors operate more independently, using their own tools and methods.
  • Integration: Employees are integral to an organization, often working exclusively for one employer, while contractors maintain multiple clients and operate as separate entities.
  • Financial Dependence: Employees receive fixed salaries with benefits and have taxes withheld by employers. Contractors handle their own taxes and invoice for services without receiving employee benefits.

In ambiguous cases, Bhutanese courts consider the totality of circumstances to determine worker classification. Independent contractors should be aware of contract structures, negotiation practices, and prevalent industries for freelancing in Bhutan, such as IT, creative industries, construction, and education.

Contract Elements for Independent Contractors:

  • Essential components include scope of work, payment terms, confidentiality clauses, and termination conditions. Legal consultation is advised to align contracts with local laws.

Negotiation Practices:

  • Effective negotiation involves understanding market rates, articulating value, preparing counteroffers, and maintaining open communication to foster long-term business relationships.

IP Ownership:

  • Generally, freelancers own the copyright to their creations unless an agreement specifies otherwise. Exceptions include "work made for hire" scenarios where copyright may transfer to the commissioning party.

Tax and Insurance Considerations:

  • Freelancers must file annual tax returns and can deduct legitimate business expenses. They may also consider securing health, professional liability, life, and disability insurance for additional protection.

Understanding these aspects is crucial for navigating the legal, financial, and professional landscape of freelancing in Bhutan.

Health & Safety in Bhutan

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Bhutan's health and safety laws, primarily governed by the Labour and Employment Act of Bhutan (LEAB) 2007 and the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2012, aim to ensure a safe working environment across various industries. Employers are responsible for hazard identification, safety training, and maintaining records, while employees must cooperate and report unsafe conditions. Specific regulations exist for high-risk industries, such as construction and mining.

The Department of Labour oversees compliance, with Labour Inspectors empowered to conduct inspections, issue notices, and enforce penalties for non-compliance. Workplace inspections are crucial, focusing on compliance verification, hazard identification, and promoting safety culture through education.

In case of workplace accidents, employers must report incidents promptly according to the severity, with serious accidents requiring immediate notification. The Workers' Compensation Regulations 2009 provide for compensation claims, covering medical expenses and wage replacements among other benefits, ensuring protection for injured workers or their dependents.

Overall, Bhutan emphasizes a proactive approach to occupational health and safety, with continuous improvement and a strong legal framework supporting the well-being of its workforce.

Dispute Resolution in Bhutan

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Bhutan's legal system for resolving labor disputes includes labor courts and a centralized arbitration mechanism, as outlined in the Labor and Employment Act of Bhutan 2007. Labor courts handle individual disputes like wrongful termination and wage issues, while the Labour Relations Board arbitrates collective disputes such as those involving collective agreements and strikes. The process starts with conciliation efforts by labor offices; if unsuccessful, cases move to either labor courts or arbitration depending on the dispute type. Labor courts conduct formal hearings, whereas arbitration sessions are less formal but binding.

Additionally, Bhutan conducts compliance audits and inspections across various sectors to ensure adherence to laws and regulations, with entities like the Royal Audit Authority and sector-specific regulatory bodies playing significant roles. The frequency of these audits depends on the risk level and past compliance of the organizations.

Whistleblower protections in Bhutan are currently limited, although some legal safeguards exist, such as those in the Anti-Corruption Act of Bhutan 2011. A more robust Witness Protection Act is under consideration to offer better security and support for whistleblowers.

On the international front, Bhutan has ratified several core International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions related to labor standards, such as those against forced labor and child labor, but has not yet joined the ILO or ratified all fundamental conventions. This reflects in some discrepancies in domestic labor laws, such as the minimum age for employment and restrictions on forming trade unions. The government acknowledges the need for further alignment with international labor standards.

Cultural Considerations in Bhutan

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In Bhutan, effective business communication and negotiation are deeply influenced by cultural values such as respect for hierarchy, indirect communication, and the importance of non-verbal cues. Bhutanese culture emphasizes respectful language, formality, and building relationships before proceeding with business dealings. Non-verbal communication, including body language and the use of silence, plays a significant role in conveying respect and attentiveness.

Negotiations in Bhutan are typically collaborative, aiming for mutually beneficial outcomes and requiring patience and flexibility. Cultural norms dictate a high power distance within businesses, with decisions often made by senior leaders and a general preference for collective input over individual assertion.

Understanding Bhutanese holidays, both statutory and religious, is crucial as they can significantly impact business operations. These holidays reflect Bhutan's deep-rooted Buddhist traditions and cultural practices, which prioritize social harmony and community well-being over commercial activities.

For successful business interactions in Bhutan, it is essential to be culturally sensitive, patient, and observant of hierarchical and social cues, while also being clear and concise in communication.

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