SG Made for Families – Equal Parental Leave
Sir, last year, Minister Josephine spoke in this House about whether paternity and maternity leave should be equalised to better reflect the desire for equal sharing of responsibilities.
She said, “Questions like these should not be forgotten. Every now and then, we should revisit them. And even if we do not, Mr Louis Ng will make sure that we do”. Sir, I am here to fulfill this prophecy and make sure we revisit this important question.
Like many, I am happy we have doubled paternity leave. As Minister Indranee knows – and she bore the brunt of my repeated questions – I have fought for this for many years.
As we celebrate this good news, and I do not want to sound too greedy, we need to ask for more, 12 more weeks of paternity leave.
We should remember that an IPS research found that our family policies continue to signal that childcare is a woman’s responsibility and reinforce gender stereotypes. We should not do this overnight but can gradually increase paternity leave over many years. Will the Government commit to this and announce a roadmap for equalising the leaves?
SG Made for Families – Paternity Leave
The times I spent with my children during my paternity leave were precious time. It is time we can never get back. I am glad we have doubled paternity leave, but we urgently need to look into increasing the usage of paternity leave.
As the Deputy Prime Minister said, “We want paternal involvement to be the norm in our society and we will stand behind all fathers who want to play a bigger role in raising our children.”
Indeed, we should but we know that only about half of fathers use their paternity leave and the key reason for this low uptake is the lack of workplace support.
Can we do more to help our employers, similar to how the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) supports employers when it comes to reservist obligations? Can the Government work with companies more closely and consider more incentives to ensure their employees use both their paternity and maternity leaves?
Parents struggled during the pandemic to find time to look after their children who had COVID-19 or when their schools closed.
Things are not getting any easier as we emerge from the pandemic. For many, the lack of time to look after their children continues. Worse still, Hand Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD) is back which can keep children away from school for about two weeks.
I experienced this first-hand when all my children got HFMD previously and COVID-19.
The Government knows many parents are begging for childcare sick leave. The Government knows how important this leave is and already gives it to public servants. I have been calling for childcare sick leave for many years because both our children and our parents need this. They need this breathing space.
I am sure Minister Indranee agrees as well. And I agree too that we have to balance this with the needs of businesses, especially SMEs.
Will PMO form a citizens’ workgroup to look into recommendations about childcare sick leave that will address both the concerns of working parents and businesses?
SG Made for Families – Fertility Leave
One of the best journeys has been my parenthood journey. I am grateful that I have three healthy, happy and crazy girls and I proudly share many stories of Ella, Katie and Poppy in this House.
But I have three children only with the help of IVF which is a physically and emotionally painful journey. We can do more to help those undergoing IVF.
IVF is extremely stressful for both husband and wife. One doctor shared that some female patients were not allowed time off from work for their fertility appointments. He has also shared he met some men who break down because they do not know how to accompany their wives without employer support. Some women may end up leaving the workforce because of this lack of workplace support.
The Government has urged employers to be sensitive to couples undergoing IVF. But we need to do more than just urge.
As we create a Singapore made for families, the Government can do more to help employers be more sympathetic by introducing gender neutral fertility leave. This will support couples, send employers a clear signal, and trigger mindset shifts in the workplace.
SG Made for Families – Flexible Work Arrangements
And finally, this pandemic has shown that working from home is possible. Through many surveys, we know that people want this option. The Government has also shared many times how flexible work arrangements (FWAs) help businesses.
In his Budget speech, Deputy Prime Minister said that FWAs are a key component in helping parents manage work and family commitments.
We cannot have a Singapore made for families without FWAs. I know we are implementing the tripartite guidelines next year. The question is, why wait so long?
Businesses already had the experience of the past three years to structure themselves around FWAs. There is no better time than now to lean into FWAs.
Can we implement the tripartite guidelines on FWAs this year and also consider legislating the guidelines instead of having them only as guidelines?
I should also say that I have spoken up so much about giving time because I have lost time. My dad passed away just before his retirement, before he could spend time with his family after working so hard his whole life. I lost time with him that I will never get back. I want to make sure no one goes through the pain I went through and still go through each day.
Giving childcare sick leave, paternity leave, parent-care leave, fertility leave and all the other leaves I fought for is not just about the minutes and seconds, but about giving people precious time to spend with their loved ones while balancing work commitments.
Watch the speeches here.