As a continuation to a series of Parliamentary replies, Singapore's Minister for Manpower Josephine Teo released on Tuesday three additional written responses. These covered the Work Injury Compensation Act (WICA), childcare leave, and support for mothers re-entering the workforce.

These are summarised below:

WICA: The Ministry of Manpower (MOM)'s plan-of-action

In relation to the new requirements under the WICAMember of Parliament (MP) Anthea Ong first asked about MOM's plan to train and communicate them, as well as how the ministry ensures workers know who to approach when they encounter work injuries.

For context, the Work Injury Compensation (WIC) Bill 2019 was passed in Singapore’s Parliament on 3 September 2019. Among the key changes for employers are: more clarity in terms of WIC-compliant insurance policies; enhanced insurance T&C to prevent unfair exclusions; and insurance premiums aligned with companies’ safety records, and more. [Full list of requirements]

To this, Minister Josephine Teo replied that the ministry has been actively engaging employers on these new requirements, as well as advertised them, and provided resources on MOM's website.

To date, the ministry has worked with the Singapore National Employers Federation, National Trades Union Congress U SME, and the Singapore Institution of Safety Officers to brief 2,000 employers, HR practitioners and safety officers since the passing of the WICA amendments.

Minister Teo added: "We have also worked with them to disseminate information regarding the new requirements to their broader membership base. We will be briefing more employers in the coming months."

On the workers' end, she said: "Through the mandatory settling-in programme for foreign workers, we have been educating workers that they should approach their immediate supervisors if they sustain work injuries.

"We have published guides in the workers' native languages, and have been working with partners such as the unions to raise awareness."

Apart from the above, MP Ong also asked about how often errant doctors have been reported over migrant work injuries in the past three years. In response, Minister Teo stated there have been seven such complaints in the last three years, of which four were referred to the SMC, and are pending investigations.

As for civil claims for such work injuries during that period., while the ministry does not track the outcomes, she added that the Commissioner of Labour had awarded compensation to about 45,000 WICA claims in the last three years.

[Read more of Minister Teo's response here.]

Childcare leave applications and rejections

In a separate query, MP Louis Ng brought up a few questions covering childcare leave.

On the first, which asked about the top three reasons employers give for denying employees access to childcare leave, Minister Teo replied that the vast majority of employers and employees have been able to work out mutually-agreeable arrangements for the taking of childcare leave.

In fact, she added, in the past five years, MOM and the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP) received zero cases of employers unreasonably rejecting an employee's childcare leave application.

Next, MP Ng asked the ministry for the number of cases that have been brought to TAFEP in each of the five years for denial of childcare leave.

Minister Teo replied: "During this period, MOM handled 15 cases where childcare leave was either not provided or under-provided in an employee's contract. The main reason for employers not having fulfilled their statutory obligations was a lack of awareness of employees' entitlements.

"In all 15 cases, MOM required the employers to rectify their childcare leave policies to comply with the law, and took enforcement action against them."

What is being done to support mothers re-entering the workforce

In a third set of questions, MP Christopher de Souza raised a question on what was being done by the ministry to support mothers re-entering the workforce, should they face difficulties matching their employment hours with the opening hours of childcare services.

In response, Minister Teo reiterated that child care centres are currently required to operate from 7.00am to 7.00pm on weekdays, and 7.00am to 2.00pm on weekends, to cater to the needs of mothers and working parents.

She then added that many families working shifts or weekends do make caregiver arrangements while some centres do extend their services per demands/ available resources.

In addition, she stressed that mothers, including those re-entering the workforce, may prefer some flexibility in their work hours to meet their caregiving needs. To address this, employers can tap on initiatives such as the Work-Life Grant and Tripartite Standard on Flexible Work Arrangements, and Workforce Singapore's Adapt and Grow initiative.

[Read more of Minister Teo's response here.]

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