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Ways to give greater support to employees who have caregiving responsibilities

Ways to give greater support to employees who have caregiving responsibilities

One of the recommendations is to ensure that FWA policies are flexible enough to cater to the needs of different caregivers and their loved ones.

Singapore's National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) has shared some findings from the year-long NTUC #EveryWorkerMatters Conversations campaign, covering areas of flexible work arrangements and enhanced support for workers who have to care for their elderly family members.

As shared by NTUC Secretary-General Ng Chee Meng (pictured above, second from left), data shows that Singapore’s population is ageing rapidly, even as the workforce and family sizes are shrinking. As such, caregiving responsibilities borne by workers are set to increase over time. 

In a survey conducted by NTUC in January to February 2023 of about 1,000 respondents, when asked what would help them most in managing work and caregiving responsibilities, most preferred flexible working arrangements (85%), paid leave for caregiving (64%), and financial support such as medical/healthcare insurance or subsidies (57%).

Against this backdrop, here are five recommendations put forward by NTUC to give greater support to employees who have caregiving responsibilities.

Recommendation 1: Workers need access to more flexible work arrangements to manage unique caregiving responsibilities

Employers, NTUC noted, can play an important role here, by:

  • ensuring that FWA policies are flexible enough to cater to the needs of different caregivers and their loved ones;
  • redesigning jobs to split up job tasks and enable workers to complete certain tasks remotely; and
  • disclosing types of FWAs and details in job advertisements to allow jobseekers to filter job advertisements based on the specific type of FWA that suits their needs.

In April 2023, NTUC worked with a cleaning company, Chye Thiam Maintenance, to allow workers to complete their training flexibly and select preferred working days and hours at work sites. This arrangement allowed workers to manage caregiving responsibilities, enabling the company to attract and retain its workforce in the manpower-tight essential services sector.

Meanwhile, a tripartite workgroup has been formed to develop Tripartite Guidelines on FWAs that will guide employers in offering FWAs. These are expected to launch in 2024.

Recommendation 2: Workers need more support to care for their elderly family members

On being asked about the impact of caregiving responsibilities on them, respondents cited the following:

  • Time away from work. More than half (52%) reported taking time off work, and more than 40% reported taking no-pay leave and taking leave frequently.
  • Performance and welfare. More than 30% reported difficulties with concentrating, less co-worker interaction, and decreased productivity at work. Close to 20% reported facing tensions or problems with co-workers and supervisors, feelings of isolation, and decreased confidence in their own ability.
  • Job prospects. About one in 10 (more than 10%) reported turning down promotions or opportunities for career progression, and receiving warnings about their performance or attendance.

Given the mounting caregiving duties, the following are ways for employers to provide greater support for employees who are caregivers:

  • paid caregiving leave
  • unpaid leave for unexpected care needs
  • employee support schemes for elderly family members
  • improved accessibility and affordability of care services

Presently, Singapore does not have any statutory provisions around paid caregiving leave to care for elderly, ill or disabled family members. However, more employers are recognising the need for it. The proportion of employers offering paid family care leave (including for elderly parents and parents-in-law) doubled from 15% to 30% from 2012 to 2022 [data from Manpower Research and Statistics Department, Ministry of Manpower, “Conditions of Employment 2022,” (2023)].

As such, NTUC recommends that all workers should be provided with a baseline of statutory paid caregiving leave, and that the definition of family members should be broad enough to cover relations by blood, marriage or adoption, as well as leave provisions should be flexible enough to cover chronic illnesses, and physical as well as mental conditions.

As for the status on unpaid leave for unexpected care needs, Singapore has existing Tripartite Standards on Unpaid Leave for Unexpected Care Needs, which were introduced in 2018 to encourage employers to voluntarily offer up to two weeks of unpaid leave per year for employees to care for immediate family members during or after hospitalisation.

NTUC does urge employers to review their policies to consider providing more employee support schemes for elderly family members, such as by extending medical and insurance coverage to workers and their elderly family members. Further, emphasis is requested on improved accessibility and affordability of care services for workers. "NTUC urges all stakeholders to continue working on assuring caregivers of their ability to afford and access the eldercare services they need," noted the trade union.

At the event, NTUC SG Ng added: "NTUC calls on everyone to play their part to build an ecosystem to support caregivers. For employers, a key and useful move is to provide more flexible work arrangement – this can retain a worker segment that may otherwise leave employment to fulfil their caregiving responsibilities."

ALSO LISTEN: HRadiO: How HR professionals should prepare for the upcoming Workplace Fairness Legislation (WFL) in Singapore

Photo / NTUC

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