Great news for working fathers – they might soon get more leave to spend time with their newborns.
According to reports by The Straits Times, a second week of paternity leave will be made compulsory for all employers in an effort to help fathers play a bigger role in parenting.
Currently, only one week of paternity leave is compulsory and the second week is voluntary.
“We are looking at when we should put this into law,” senior minister of state Josephine Teo told Singapore media on Friday, at the end of a visit to Denmark and South Korea to study population policies.
She also said that employers will be given adequate notice of when the policy will take effect.
“This extension of paternity leave, paid for by the Government, is one of several changes to support parenthood and help lift birth rates likely to be announced when Parliament debates ministries’ plans and budgets next month,” The Straits Times wrote.
Last year, Singapore welcomed 33,793 citizen newborns – 600 more than in 2014 and the highest in 13 years. Hopefully, the figure continues to increase.
At the same time, there are also plans to let working mothers share more of their four-month paid maternity leave with their husbands, The Straits Times reported.
As of now, parents are only able to share one of the 16 weeks of this leave and Teo feels that this can be expanded since some mums would like to return to work sooner.
“We are in consultation with employer groups and with the labour movement. You will find out very soon,” she said.
The government is also studying more childcare facilities for infants under 18 months as well as discussing making work arrangements more flexible with employer groups and labour unions.
“Several companies have expressed concern about these moves raising business costs, but Teo said such pro-family policies had to be seen from a broader perspective,” The Straits Times reported.
Recounting how she had asked South Korean and Danish employers why they were supportive of these policies, she said: “The response from the employers was very consistent: because it makes good business sense.”
“If we’re able to fulfill this aspiration of employees to achieve better work-life balance, to meet their requirement of having more flexible work arrangements, then we stand a better chance of getting more talented employees and that is good for business,” she added.
Teo said that ultimately, there is no silver bullet to raise birth rates.
The Government can do only so much, such as providing affordable, quality childcare, but community support – especially from employers – is key.
In Singapore, about 40% of dads used paternity leave last year.
MP Seah Kian Peng, chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Social and Family Development and a board member of the Centre for Fathering, welcomed the move to legislate the second week of paternity leave.
This little nudge will hopefully go some way towards stronger families and boosting our total fertility rate. Every bit helps,” he told The Straits Times.