Written Answer by Minister for Manpower Mrs Josephine Teo to PQ on Gender-Neutral Fertility Leave on Employability
NOTICE PAPER NO. 237 OF 2021 FOR THE SITTING ON 01 FEB 2021
QUESTION NO. 540 FOR ORAL ANSWER NOT ANSWERED BY END OF QUESTION TIME
MP: Mr Louis Ng Kok Kwang
To ask the Minister for Manpower (a) whether the Ministry has studied the effects of introducing gender-neutral fertility leave on the employability of the individuals who use it; (b) if so, what are the results of the study; and (c) if not, whether it intends to undertake such a study, or why not.
- From time to time, there are suggestions for a variety of additional leave provisions to be provided. These include caregiver leave for aged parents, compassionate leave for bereaved children and grandchildren, and more annual leave. Mr Louis Ng has also proposed gender-neutral fertility leave and asked if MOM has studied the effects of gender-neutral fertility leave. We thank the Member for the suggestion, and will consider it along with other meaningful studies that can be undertaken as well as resources available. Keen researchers may also apply to the Social Policy Research Council for support.
- Over the years, the Government has progressively enhanced leave provisions. In 2013, we extended two days of childcare leave each year to parents with children aged seven to 12 years old. Later in 2017, we legislated the second week of paternity leave, increased shared parental leave to four weeks, and increased adoption leave for mothers to 12 weeks. More recently, we worked with tripartite partners to introduce the Tripartite Standards on Unpaid Leave for Unexpected Care Needs, which encourages employers to allow employees up to six weeks of unpaid leave to support their unexpected caregiving needs. The Government has led by example to adopt this set of Standards across the public sector.
- Further enhancements to leave provisions require careful consideration. The Government has consistently taken a tripartite approach, taking on board the views and concern of employers, unions, and other stakeholders. In this period of heightened uncertainty in the economy and job market, we must also assess the overall impact of concurrent policy moves on employers and employability.
- During public consultations on caregiving support, the feedback gathered from workers indicated that flexible work arrangements (FWAs) were more sustainable than leave provisions to help them meet their work and caregiving commitments. The tripartite partners have continuously reviewed and enhanced our efforts to support the provision of FWAs. Today, the vast majority of employees, including caregivers, have access to FWAs. In 2019, about 85% of employers offered some form of FWA. This has increased further during the COVID-19 period. We are doing more to entrench FWAs such as by implementing the recommendations of the Citizens’ Panel on Work-Life Harmony. These include growing a community of Work-Life Ambassadors who will advocate for FWAs and developing sector-specific Communities of Practice that will promote best practices for employers to implement FWAs.