IN FOCUS: Beyond diversity quotas and anti-discrimination laws, can Singapore embrace gender equality in the workplace?

PARENTAL LEAVE AND FLEXIBILITY FOR CAREGIVERS

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

While it was common to ask potential candidates if they planned to marry and have children 10 to 20 years ago, the practice appears to be less common these days, Ms Chue said.

“Because when you’re thinking about starting a family, they’ll think twice because you’re going on maternity leave,” she added.

Ms. Chue is now the mother of a 17- and 18-year-old boy. She was ‘completely new’ to the business when she found out she was pregnant with her second child.

As her children are one year apart, she took two maternity leaves 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 I felt like At that time, how can you be on maternity leave for two years in a row? she added, acknowledging that her state of mind was different then than now.

“I had to take my boss 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 said with a laugh.

“My bosses were happy for me, but my colleagues must think they should take over my projects.”

For Ms Tan, who gave birth about six months ago, her immediate boss, who is a man, was understanding of her urgent maternity or leave needs. Other senior brass who are women also understood her situation, she shared.

Earlier this year, when Singapore saw more than 10,000 cases of COVID-19 every day, she told her boss about her concerns about returning to the office because of her very young child at home.

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

Most of the companies CNA spoke to provided flexible working arrangements for all employees, including parents, and some went above and beyond Singapore’s parental leave requirements, with some offering the same amount of leave. 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 required by MOM.

Swedish automation technology company ABB has doubled its paternity leave provision in Singapore and rolled out a global parental leave program this year, its Singapore chief executive Jerrica Chooi said.

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

The company has also just started to overhaul its benefits system to make it more inclusive, Ms. Chooi said, noting that differentiating by employee characteristics can indirectly discriminate against certain groups.

“In general, men tend to take fewer days off, so we want the fathers in our company to know that we will meet the needs of their families and that we can take time off on paternity leave,” he said. she adds.

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

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

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

Dropbox employees who welcome a new child get 24 weeks of fully paid parental leave, regardless of gender or whether they’re adopting, said its APAC manager, Pia Broadley.

“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 options of remote and hybrid working methods available if needed,” it said. -she adds.

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