While a second week of paternity leave can currently only be used if an employer allows it under a voluntary scheme, it will soon be made into law.
Senior Minister of State Josephine Teo, who oversees population matters, said this on Friday (Mar 18) as she wrapped up an overseas trip to Seoul and Copenhagen to study marriage and parenthood trends.
She said the move is part of a wider push to help Singaporeans better balance work and family life, and that it will be discussed at the upcoming Committee of Supply debate in Parliament.
In Denmark, 60 per cent of men take up the two weeks of legislated paid leave. That is a higher proportion than in Singapore, where 40 per cent of fathers use their one week of Government-paid paternity leave.
Since January last year, fathers could receive an additional week, but only if their companies agreed to it.
“The willingness is there,” said Mrs Teo. “In fact you will hear a lot of fathers talking about the joy that they get out of bonding with their children at different ages, and starting from a very, very young age, soon after birth. It’s a good thing. I think the time has come for Singapore, for fathers, because they’re willing to play a bigger part and we should enable it.”
She said employers will be given enough time to prepare for this, citing the four months notice they were given during legislation for the first week of paternity leave.
Mrs Teo added that there are also plans to expand the recently introduced shared parental leave system, where a father can use up to a week of a mother’s 16-week entitlement.
EMPLOYERS CAN PLAY “A BIG ROLE”
Pointing to how many Danish companies have already introduced flexi-work arrangements, the Senior Minister of State said employers in Singapore can also play a big role in creating a pro-family environment for Singaporeans by following suit.
In a 2015 study, Denmark was found to have the best work-life balance in the developed world.
Early childhood education providers, whether they are home-based or in kindergartens, typically open from 6.30am to 5pm. While some of them have explored extended hours for parents who work late, there has been very little demand for such a service.
In fact, many parents pick their kids up from as early as 3pm, thanks to the option of flexi-work hours offered by many employers here.
“What seems clear to me, when we talk about flexible work arrangements, it need not be promoted as something exclusively for parents or caregivers,” said Mrs Teo. “Whatever it is that is your need, making flexible work arrangements available is a smart move on the part of the employers.”
“It is win-win-win,” she added. “It could be a win for employers, because they stand a better chance of attracting and retaining talents; win for the employee who needs the flexible work arrangements; it could be a win for the co-workers too, because by making sure that you have an environment where the mutual support is strong, everyone can be productive together. That is the conversation that will happen.”
Mrs Teo said that another area that the Government will pay more attention to is childcare, particularly for kids below 18 months of age.
She had observed such options earlier on the trip in Seoul, and also in Copenhagen, where there were both smaller scale centre-based, and home-based models. Such initiatives could soon be piloted in Singapore.
“What is very clear is that there will be a need, there will be an increasing need and the sooner we test out the ideas the better for us. So we are open to different formats at this point in time,” Mrs Teo said.
A series of initiatives that addressed work-life balance in Denmark has seen its Total Fertility Rate or TFR recover to around 1.7, following a sharp drop beginning from 2010.
Likewise, Mrs Teo said Singapore will need a a combination of interventions to improve its TFR beyond the current 1.25.
news source: channelnewsasia.com