Parliamentary reply by Minister Indranee Rajah on extending childcare leave during the COVID-19 pandemic
FOURTEENTH PARLIAMENT OF SINGAPORE
MONDAY, 1 FEBRUARY 2021
Mr Murali Pillai:
To ask the Prime Minister whether, in light of the Ministry of Health’s advisory issued in February 2020 to medical practitioners to issue five days of sick leave to patients with respiratory symptoms during this pandemic, whether childcare leave period for eligible parents under the Child Development Co-Savings Act may be extended for the period of the pandemic so as to allow parents to provide support for their children who may be issued with sick leave and are therefore required to stay at home.
Ms Indranee Rajah (for the Prime Minister):
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, employers and employees have had to make adjustments to work arrangements to cope with the evolving situation. In February 2020, the Ministry of Health advised doctors to issue five days of medical leave to patients with respiratory symptoms in order to reduce the risk of community spread. As a result, we recognise that working parents may face challenges balancing their work commitments and caring for a sick child at home.
Today, each working parent of a Singaporean child is eligible for up to six days of paid childcare leave if their child is under the age of seven years, or two days of paid extended childcare leave if their child is between seven and 12 years. In addition, almost half of all employees in Singapore have more than 14 days of annual leave. Parents who are unable to work from home due to the nature of their work can avail themselves of these childcare or annual leave entitlements. We have taken a practical approach to calibrating childcare leave provisions. Any enhancements, even if time-limited, will need to account for the manpower and operational needs of employers, as well as the caregiving needs of parents.
Rather than expanding leave provisions during this time, we encourage employers to provide a work environment that helps parents manage their work and family responsibilities. The Government, together with unions and employers, introduced a Tripartite Standard on Flexible Work Arrangements in 2017, and a Tripartite Standard on Unpaid Leave for Unexpected Care Needs in 2018, to establish good practices that all employers should implement to support their employees’ personal or caregiving responsibilities.
In the past year, more employers have adopted flexible work arrangements such as flexible work timings or remote work, as part of measures to reduce interactions in the workplace during the pandemic. We call upon employers to adopt the Tripartite Standards and to continue exercising flexibility, including allowing employees to work-from-home to care for their children who are issued medical leave.
A sustainable way to help parents better juggle their work and childcare needs is to make flexible work arrangements a norm in our workplaces. Technology solutions and workplace practices put in place by employers to facilitate remote work during the COVID-19 period could also be extended beyond the crisis. The Government will work with the tripartite partners to study ways to foster a more family-friendly work environment and to better support working parents.