Employers to be reimbursed for second week of paternity leave

May 10, 20169:30 am418 views
Employers to be reimbursed for second week of paternity leave
TODAY file photo

SINGAPORE — Employers whose employees took a second week of paternity leave from August last year will be able to seek reimbursements from the Government from July, after the amendments to the Child Development Co-savings Act were passed in Parliament yesterday, paving the way for more support for parents.

With the amended Act — the first of two rounds of changes to enact the various measures — employers can seek reimbursement for the leave taken by eligible employees, while eligible self-employed persons can also claim the loss of income from the Government for the additional week of leave taken.

The second week of paternity leave on a voluntary basis was first announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong during the National Day Rally in August last year.

The amendments cover fathers who have taken leave from Aug 24, 2015 and are applicable to children born on or after, or those whose estimated delivery date was on or after, Jan 1, 2015. It is also applicable to adopted children where the application to adopt was made or whose dependent’s pass was issued on or after Jan 1.

The Act will be amended again later this year to make the second week of paternity leave mandatory, a move announced during the Budget debates last month.

Meanwhile, the amendments passed yesterday will also allow children of unwed parents to be eligible for the Child Development Account (CDA) benefits, including the new S$3,000 CDA First Step grant. This will apply to children who are born from September.

The First Step grant was announced by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat in his Budget speech in March, and will see parents automatically receive S$3,000 in their child’s CDA even without prior contributions. What they save in the account thereafter will be matched dollar-for-dollar by the Government up to the contribution caps. The money can be used for the child’s healthcare and educational needs.

Apart from mandating the second week of paternity leave, the next round of amendments to the Act later this year will extend the full 16 weeks of government-paid maternity leave to unwed mothers, and increase the length of government-paid adoption leave and shared parental leave.

Addressing the House yesterday, Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin said: “With strong families and good support from society, our children can have a good start in life. In the coming years, my ministry will continue to strengthen fundamental family relationships, and support vulnerable families.”

The Government first introduced one week of legislated paid paternity leave in 2013. Last year, 40 per cent, or 12,300, fathers took a week of paternity leave.

While Non-constituency Member of Parliament Daniel Goh and MP Louis Ng (Nee Soon GRC) supported the changes, they also raised suggestions for further improving the total fertility rates and parenthood policies.

Noting that “equality matters for increasing birth rates”, Associate Professor Goh suggested that the additional childcare subsidy for working mothers be made gender-neutral and extended to working fathers.

Likewise, benefits should also be extended to all parents of Singapore children as far as possible, including single unwed parents and the non-citizen spouses of Singaporeans.

“Extending equality to all parents of Singaporean children cultivates positive sentiment for having babies and raising children,” he added.

He also asked the Government to provide S$10,000 in every child’s CDA before parents’ top-ups. This would provide short-term financial security for low- and middle-income households, he said.

Mr Ng urged the Government to not just provide more grants but also ensure both parents have the chance to spend more time with their children.

He also asked that employers not only grant the paternity leave, but also actively encourage their employees to take it.

In his closing speech, Mr Tan reiterated that while there might be some differentiation for unwed parents, their children continue to be provided for on many fronts, such as education, healthcare and childcare subsidies.

“It would (not be) correct to say that they are deprived of everything else,” he said.

“While we do what we can for the children, we do think that we must continue to try to encourage and support parenthood within the confines of marriage,” he added.

news source: todayonline.com

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