Tuesday, 3 November 2015

More firms double paternity leave

Firms have varied arrangements for eligible dads; some SMEs find it a strain to add days
By Seow Bei Yi, The Straits Times, 2 Nov 2015

More companies in Singapore are doubling the amount of paternity leave they offer to two weeks.

Unlike maternity leave, which many mothers take in a continuous period of up to 16 weeks, companies have varied arrangements for eligible fathers.

Some require employees to take paternity leave in a block of one or two weeks, while others give the flexibility of using the leave as separate days over 12 months after the child's birth.

These moves follow a call by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in August to double paternity leave on a voluntary basis. For companies that take up the call, the Government will pay for the extra week of leave.

The civil service as well as companies such as telco Singtel and banks DBS and OCBC have already implemented the enhanced paternity leave, backdating it to Jan 1 this year.

A check with eight other companies showed that almost all have either doubled their period of paternity leave, or plan to do so in the near future. These include bank UOB, ground-handling firm SATS and Concorde Hotel.

Transport operator SMRT said eligible fathers have to take the leave in a continuous block of one or two weeks, within 16 weeks of the birth of their child.

SMRT technical officer Muhamad Shah Rizal Hassan, 28, took a second week of paternity leave in September to spend more time with his four-month-old son.

He said: "Most kids spend more time with their mother instead of their father. I want to stay with my son for a longer time so he will be familiar with both parents."

Smaller companies like Yang Kee Logistics have also increased their days of paternity leave. It offers 16 days - two additional days of leave paid by the company.

The company, which has more than 230 employees, said eligible fathers can choose to take the leave in a continuous block or in separate days within 12 months of the child's birth.

"We hope to empower our employees, not only the mothers, but also the fathers, to share the responsibility of parenthood," said managing director Ken Koh.

But not all small and medium- sized enterprises (SMEs) are raising their paternity leave. Interior furnishings firm Goodrich Global, for example, finds its current policy of a week's paternity leave is enough for employees. It has around 150 staff.

According to regional marketing manager Jean Leong, the company's eligible employees tend to take time off when they need to, instead of a full week of leave.

Other SMEs have expressed concern about increasing the number of days of paternity leave, according to Mr Kurt Wee, president of the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises.

This is because manpower is tight, male employees already have a range of leave and have to go for reservist training, he explained. As such, he added, only around 40 per cent of eligible fathers working in SMEs take up a full week of paternity leave.

"Many people are in overdrive," said Mr Wee. "SMEs generally feel the strain when it comes to this."

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