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3 Reasons Singapore SMEs Should Welcome, Not Discourage, Parental Leave

Joanne Poh

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It looks like the government’s going all out this year to convince Singaporeans to have kids. The national paternity leave allowance just got raised to two weeks, although it’s not compulsory yet. Already SMEs are crying foul, worried that they won’t be able to work their employees as hard as before.

Many young parents are reportedly wary of using their full parental leave entitlements, as employers’ attitudes to taking time off tend to be less than positive. I’ve witnessed first hand employers trash talking employees for taking childcare leave or not responding to emails quickly enough during maternity leave. While this may not be true of all bosses, prejudice still exists in many local SMEs.

But believe it or not, companies might actually have reason to welcome parental leave and encourage their employees to take their full leave allowance. Here’s why.

 

Higher employee retention and engagement

Having a child is a huge event in a family’s life, and believe it or not, many parents view the wellbeing of their child as being more important than keeping their boss happy.

Studies have shown that paid parental leave is hugely beneficial for the child in terms of health and wellbeing. Not being able to look after a sick child or being constantly worried about the welfare of their kid takes a toll on any parent in this already stressful period in their lives. And if they perceive that it’s their boss or their job that’s preventing them from fulfilling their duties as a parent, employers should not be surprised if they look elsewhere for a job.

In fact, there’s evidence to show that parental leave encourages higher employee retention and engagement. If parents feel they are given the space to raise their kid and granted understanding by their bosses, they tend to be more loyal to the company and more engaged at work. And why wouldn’t they? Nobody wants to work for an employer who views them as a mere cog in the wheel.

Even tech giants like Google and Facebook have started to offer unlimited parental leave. It’s not because they’re altruistic, but rather because they’ve realised that that’s how they motivate their employees and get them to stay for the long haul.

 

Singaporeans care deeply about work-life balance

Some Singaporean employers tend to try to squeeze as much work out of their employees as is humanly possible, and that could explain why Singaporean workers are gaining a reputation as job hoppers.

A recent poll revealed that work-life balance is one of Singaporeans’ top concerns at work, which means that if they do not feel they are able to manage their family lives, they might leave their jobs—a move which is not all too difficult given the tight labour market.

Parental leave helps parents to better cope with juggling their work and looking after a kid. A mother or father who feels they are able to achieve work-life balance in their current job is less likely to want to leave.

 

Reduces the amount parents have to spend on childcare

Every single one of my female friends who’s recently given birth to a child has lamented the high cost of childcare in Singapore. Even with subsidies, if you return to work immediately after maternity leave ends, you’re looking at paying at least $1,000 a month for full-day infantcare. That’s in between a quarter and a third of the median income in Singapore!

If parents feel the burden of paying for childcare is too heavy, they might look elsewhere for a job that pays more. Conversely, others might decide to quit their jobs to become stay-at-home parents or work part-time if it means saving on childcare.

Employers need to realise that loyalty at work is a two way street. If they want to stop having to replace their employees every 1-2 years, they need to understand how incentives like parental leave actually help to make work and life more manageable for their employees, and work together with them to provide a sustainable work environment—not one that just tries to bleed workers dry.

Do you think local SMEs will be giving fathers their two weeks of paternal leave anytime soon? Tell us in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.