Saturday, 15 February 2014

Expand family care benefits to all: NTUC

Staff with young families and old or ailing relatives should be included
By Carolyn Khew, The Straits Times, 14 Feb 2014

SINGAPORE'S labour movement has issued four new guidelines for companies, encouraging them to offer family care benefits to all staff - whether they have young children, or old or ailing relatives.

The National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) recommends that "supportive supervisors and co-workers" should be committed to developing all staff and helping them progress in their careers. These include those who have young families or who are on flexible work arrangements. It also wants the latter to be given greater scheduling freedom.

Family support schemes and facilities, such as childcare centres, should also be provided, along with access to family care leave schemes that give paid time off to staff who need to take care of dependants or elderly relatives.

Ms Toh Hwee Tin, director of the NTUC's family development unit U Family, unveiled the guidelines yesterday and hopes at least half of its 1,500 unionised companies will adopt them by next year.

She recognised that government policies "have done well in looking after the needs of those with young children", but added: "We need to see that being expanded... so that (working caregivers) can return to work and stay in employment."

Ms Toh said only 15 per cent of its unionised companies have such measures in place. She added that companies can use them to gauge how family-friendly they are, but noted that getting more companies on board is "not easy", as there is a belief that employees could abuse the privileges or that they may be hard to implement.

However, she hopes employees will at least have the "right to request" for flexible work arrangements before leaving the discretion to employers. Ms Toh also hopes tripartite guidelines can be expanded to include working caregivers with dependants as well as just those with young children.

Mr Erman Tan, 49, president of the Singapore Human Resources Institute, said small and medium-sized enterprises may need help in the form of grants to ease into adopting such measures.

"These are all added costs so if it's implemented too suddenly, it could be difficult to manage, especially since SMEs are already struggling with other areas like manpower costs and high rent."

Consulting solutions firm Priority Consultants is one Singapore based company allowing flexi-work arrangements. It has even invested in laptops and video conferencing technologies so staff can work from home.

"My staff had some difficulty adjusting as it was challenging having to work on group projects when people were not around," said managing director Kunalan C. Doraisingham. "But you can still get things done from home. It's not about being in the office but getting your job done."

In a U Family poll of more than 5,200 people done last November, about half of the working respondents said they felt happy in their workplace, were motivated and wanted to stay in their jobs.

Grace Fu backs call to extend perks to all caregivers
By Carolyn Khew, The Straits Times, 15 Feb 2014

THE call from the labour movement for companies to give family-friendly benefits to all caregivers and not just parents has been backed by Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Grace Fu.

Calling it the "right direction to go", she explained that expanding these benefits to include workers who take care of ageing or sick family members, for instance, will help people stay in their jobs for "as long as possible".

It will also help "us to meet the needs of an ageing society", she added yesterday while speaking on the sidelines of her visit to the OCBC Centre to learn about the bank's work-life balance programmes.

On Thursday, the National Trades Union Congress urged for existing tripartite guidelines on workplace practices, which have detailed guidelines for pregnant employees and parents of young children, to be broadened to include other caregivers.

It also unveiled a series of criteria - from flexible work arrangements to access to family-care leave - which companies can measure themselves against to see how family-friendly they are.

OCBC, which last year topped a list of most attractive employers in the banking and financial services here, already meets some of these criteria, like having an in-house childcare centre offering discounted rates to staff.

Part of the bank's work-life balance programme also includes giving two extra days of childcare leave to employers with children aged eight to 12 years old.

Said Ms Fu: "OCBC shared with us that it is actually in its commercial interests to do so (have these family-friendly benefits) because it's a good way for it to retain and attract talents... Employees want to achieve both family and work objectives and they need employers to flexibly meet their needs."

Around half of OCBC's employees are below the age of 37 and 44 per cent of them have children below the age of 17.

OCBC Bank's head of group human resources, Ms Cynthia Tan, explained: "We want to create a working environment that helps our employees succeed in building a career with us and at the same time, enjoy a meaningful family life."

Mr Ng Pei Min, assistant vice-president of global treasury at the bank, said that pro-family measures are helpful for dads like him, who need time off work to look after family matters.

The 36-year-old, who has been working with OCBC since 2008, took two weeks of paternity leave in 2009 and 2010 after his wife, who works as a civil servant, gave birth.

He said: "It gives the reassurance that when you need help, you don't have to hesitate asking for it."

No comments:

Post a Comment