The Snitch

Just a little of everything HR

The Office Snitch: Maybe baby

with 2 comments


For a while now in Singapore, the debate about parental leave has been as hot as the weather.

But if you haven’t been keeping up with the news, or are not based in Singapore, here’s the 411: The government called for suggestions on what can be done to boost the fertility rate, so the NTUC suggested longer maternity leave and mandatory paternity leave.

As you can imagine, not everyone is on board with this. The Singapore National Employers’ Federation, for one, said providing mandatory paternity leave would create “an entitlement mentality which is an unhealthy work value” (which I don’t agree with, but we’ll get to that).

At the moment, mothers in Singapore are given 16 weeks’ leave, and NTUC is urging it be bumped up to six months. Dads, on the other hand, have no such thing as mandated child care leave, although a lot of companies offer about two days as a perk.

Now, I’m not a parent. But I was a pre-school teacher for a while, so I think I’m entitled to have my say on this.

I can see where both sides are coming from. On one hand, having employees – especially mothers – away from work for six months will be disruptive to organisations. In a team of five, if one member is gone for half a year, the additional workload the remaining staff has to take on will be significant.

But at the same time, is it such a bad thing that parents want to be there for the first few months of their kids lives? Isn’t that sort of something a tax-paying, hard-working citizen is entitled to?

Last week, TODAY ran a piece about how increasing annual leave days could boost fertility rates. The article pointed out more leave days equals more rest days, which would lead to happier and more productive employees who will then “have the time, energy and mood to start a family”.

I don’t know about you, but I find it a bit odd. What am I suppose to do? Ring up my editor and say that cute boy from circulation and I are going to Phuket for a week to find “the time, energy and mood to start a family”?

So here’s my take on this. I am all for fathers being hands-on and taking on responsibilities with child care. Go ahead and have mandatory paternity leave! Fathers should be just as involved in their kids’ upbringing and I honestly believe that companies who believe otherwise are short-changing themselves.

Six months of maternity is a bit much, and to be honest, from chats I’ve had with working mums, not a lot of them are keen on being away from the office that long either.

Companies, and perhaps Singapore as a whole, need to stop throwing benefits and perks in order to get people to seriously consider starting families (and no, that Mentos video wasn’t the way to go either – though I have to admit it was a catchy beat).

There are so many other factors to consider; the cost of childcare, education, medical, housing, cars, clothes, toys, tickets to the Barney show. I really believe it is more about creating a work environment that welcomes families.

I’m happy to say I’ve got that here. Occasionally, the boss’ toddlers pop in for a visit and type lengthy emails in a language I can’t quite grasp yet to their imaginary friends.

There have been a couple of times where I’ve had to be away from work for a few hours to watch my sister play a gig, or take my grandma for a check up. I know this isn’t close to being a parent, but I appreciate having a culture where no one’s going to frown upon me wanting to be with my family.

This isn’t a topic that’s going to die down any time soon, and it would be interesting to see how it plays out, but I honestly believe we will manage to figure out how to best provide for the parents in our workforce, while protecting our bottom line.

If you have a thought on what can or shouldn’t be done to support families in Singapore, drop us a note, or tweet us at @Mag_HR.

Written by Sabrina Zolkifi

October 5, 2012 at 11:01 am

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses

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  1. As a working mum, I took just months off and would have loved months in hind site. Until you are a mum it’s impossible to say how fast you’ll be back and now for our second we are waiting as a couple until we can afford 12 months off between us!


    October 5, 2012 at 3:29 pm

  2. Hi Katie, thanks for sharing! Yes, I do agree it’s a tough thing to plan until you’re in the situation itself, and I’d imagine even so, circumstances would differ for each child.

    Sabrina Zolkifi

    October 5, 2012 at 3:51 pm

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