31 August 2015
Some Singapore firms extend paternity leave after National Day Rally announcement
Nicole Tan

SINGAPORE: Some Singapore firms have announced plans to extend paternity leave by a week, following Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's recent announcement during his National Day Rally speech that the Government would finance the extension.

While the move is voluntary, some observers said smaller firms may struggle to cope with the additional strain on manpower.

About 120 male employees at DBS in Singapore have welcomed new babies to their families this year. They are all now entitled to an extra week of leave to look after their newborn child, following the Government's decision to extend paternity leave to two weeks.

The bank said fathers will have one year from his child's birth to take the additional week off, and this adds to its existing range of family-friendly benefits for employees.

Said Ms Cheong Meng Foong, managing director (reward) for group human resources at DBS Bank: “We put together a whole string of benefits, which includes things like allowing employees to have more flexible time to come to work and go home. So if they have children who go to school very early in the morning, they can start work very early and go back early so that they can cook for their children.

"We have a flexible time arrangement for them. For people who need to stay home because, for example, the Primary School Leaving Examinations are coming up, we make it very flexible for them to arrange with their bosses to work from home."

MediaCorp, OCBC Bank and Singtel have also announced that they would be extending paternity leave by a week, taking retrospective effect from Jan 1 this year.

SMALLER COMPANIES MAY STRUGGLE TO FILL GAP: OBSERVERS

While employees welcome the move, observers said smaller companies may lack sufficient manpower to fill the gap.

Said Mr Kurt Wee, president of the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (ASME): “On average, when you look at it, (taking into account) annual leave, childcare leave, the initial seven days of paternity leave, plus seven days, plus some of the time away for reservist and public holidays, a male employee can be away for one and a half to two months in a year. That can be very substantial for an SME that does not have excessive buffer to see through such periods.”

“It is not so much just the one week itself, because in all fairness, we do not see a tremendous impact on the ground with this policy, simply because people do not give birth every year. But when you look at it in totality at an ecosystem level, with women employees having four months of maternity leave and if male employees during year of birth have to be away for one and a half to two months potentially, that may not add to productivity,” he added.

COMPANIES REALISE IMPORTANCE OF WORK-LIFE BALANCE

Still, industry watchers said companies are increasingly starting to realise the importance of promoting work-life balance. According to Ministry of Manpower statistics, in 2014, 47 per cent of firms had at least one formal flexible work arrangement, up from 38 per cent in 2011.

The National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) said it hopes to bring more companies on board by sharing best practices with them.

Said Mr Desmond Choo, director of the Youth Development Unit at NTUC: “There also can be instances where manpower is so lean they cannot implement (the extra week of leave). Then we can also go for a phased approach (where) instead of a full two weeks, you may just want to go for another two days or three days more as you build towards that.”

“We have seen how some companies are very creative, in saying that now I can blend in compassionate leave together with some form of paternity leave to create family care leave so that all my employees can benefit,” he added.

For unionised firms, about 60 per cent have at least one formal flexible work arrangement.

- CNA/dl

Link: http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/some-singapore-firms/2089432.html