FOCUS: Beyond diversity quotas and anti-discrimination laws, can Singapore advance gender equality in the workplace? – Natural Self Esteem

PARENTAL LEAVE AND FLEXIBILITY FOR CARERS

Parental leave and flexibility for carers at work are priorities for women in Singapore, experts said, with calls to improve carer support and paternity leave.

While 10 to 20 years ago it was common to ask potential female candidates if they plan to get married and have children, the practice seems less common today, Ms Chue said.

“Because if you’re planning on starting a family, they’re going to think twice because you’re going on maternity leave,” she added.

Ms. Chue is now the mother of a 17-year-old and an 18-year-old. She was “brand new” at the company when she found out she was pregnant with her second child.

Since their children are a year apart, she took maternity leave twice in two years.

“No one in the company or my bosses said anything, but I felt bad about myself – that I had to be away for so long because I was pregnant. Because at the time I thought, how can you be on maternity leave two years in a row? she added, acknowledging that her mindset was different then than it is now.

“I had to take my boss over to lunch and tell him I’m pregnant again. I was like, ‘I’m so sorry, I feel really bad about being pregnant again,'” she shared with a giggle.

“My bosses were happy for me, but my colleagues must think they have to take on my projects.”

For Ms. Tan, who gave birth about six months ago, her immediate boss, who is male, is sympathetic to her maternity or urgent vacation needs. Other female supervisors also understand her situation, she said.

Earlier this year, as Singapore was recording more than 10,000 COVID-19 cases each day, she expressed concerns to her boss about returning to the office because of her very young child at home.

“He understood and told me to just work from home for now. When the COVID-19 cases come back and I’m ready, I can just go back to the office,” she said, adding that she’s still working from home now.

Most companies CNA spoke to have offered flexible working arrangements to all employees, including parents, and some have gone beyond Singapore parental leave requirements, with some giving the same leave to new fathers and new mothers.

In Singapore, working mothers are entitled to 16 weeks of paid maternity leave, while fathers are entitled to two weeks of paid paternity leave, as mandated by MOM.

Swedish automation technology company ABB has doubled its offer of paternity leave in Singapore and launched a global parental leave program this year, said Jerrica Chooi, Singapore country chief executive.

The company’s new parental leave program is gender-neutral, allowing a parent to take 12 weeks of paid leave if they’re the primary caregiver, and that applies to all employees who have a baby or adopt a child, she added.

The company has also just started reviewing its benefits system to make it more inclusive, Ms. Chooi said, noting that differentiation by employee characteristics may indirectly discriminate against some groups.

“In general, men take fewer days off, so we want the fathers in our company to know that we support their family needs and that it’s okay to take paternity leave,” she added.

“We don’t yet have enough data to measure the effectiveness of these programs, but we’ve already had positive feedback from new parents who have taken advantage of these new guidelines.”

Twitter introduced more family benefits in January this year, including personalized and financial support for employees starting a family, Ms Grewal said.

This includes financial support for egg freezing, fertility, surrogacy and adoption, as well as coaching on family planning, pregnancy and parenting, she added.

Dropbox employees who welcome a new child are given 24 weeks of fully-paid parental leave, regardless of gender or whether they adopt, APAC director Pia Broadley said.

“We encourage returning parents to work with their managers and colleagues to develop a schedule that works best for them based on their current situation, with flexible remote and hybrid working options available when needed,” added she added.

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