It was a long-time coming but 2 banks in Singapore led the way in announcing changes to their parental leave policies in end Aug 2023.
Standard Chartered Bank is now offering 20 weeks of paid parental leave, regardless of gender, starting from 1 Sep. Previously, male employees were entitled to just 2 weeks of government-paid paternity leave and 4 weeks of shared parental leave. In a similar move, HSBC Singapore has extended paternity leave from 2 weeks to 8 weeks and increased maternity leave from 16 weeks to 26 weeks, also effective from 1 Sep.
These moves aren’t new though. Citi Singapore already offers 4 weeks of paternity since 2020.
Parents working at these banks must be glad to have their partners available to shoulder the parenting duties without eating into their annual leave. The fact that banking, known for being a traditional sector, is implementing such changes is a positive sign and an example leading the way for more equality in parental leave across the board.
Paternity leave in Singapore: Legal framework
The news of these 2 banks’ paternity leave came even as the Singapore government announced a change to paternity leave in Singapore during Budget 2023. Government-paid paternity leave (GPPL) will be 4 weeks, up from the current 2, for working fathers of Singaporean children born on or after 1 Jan 2024.
According to the Ministry of Social and Family Development, “the Government will reimburse/pay for all 4 weeks of your GPPL, capped at $2,500 per week or a total of $10000.”
While this move is not unwelcome, Singapore still lags behind other developed countries in Europe in offering paid paternity, or even parental leave. At this point, it’s still hard to compare to other nations like Sweden where they get 480 days of paid parental leave! Ok, don’t get me started on annual leave too.
So let’s narrow it down to the banks. Some global banks offer 16 – 20 weeks of parental leave — 20 weeks at Goldman Sachs, 16 weeks at Barclays, Morgan Stanley and Bank of America.
The moves by Standard Chartered and HSBC are just part how these banks are aligning to the global standards.
What’s driving the trends in companies offering paternity leave?
The growing changes to paternity leave policies are more than welcome by parents. But what’s driving them?
Well, on the corporate front, organisations recognize that offering paternity leave is not just a perk, it’s a strategic move. Doing so attracts top talent, reduces turnover rates, and promotes work-life balance. Additionally, it aligns with evolving societal expectations regarding gender equality and family responsibilities. In the fiercely competitive financial industry, offering generous paternity leave has become a distinctive advantage.
On a social level, the visibility of fathers bonding with their children and supporting their partners during the postpartum period has increased. Paternity leave advocates emphasise its role in achieving gender equality both at home and in the workplace. As companies strive for greater diversity, family-friendly policies are key to attracting a broader talent pool.
Challenges and concerns around paternity leave
While the benefits of paternity leave are clear, it’s not without its challenges and concerns among both employers and employees.
Employers will worry how more employees going on extended leave might disrupt daily operations while employees may worry about how their careers may get halted or affected. We’ve all heard stories about how hard it is for working mums who have gone on maternity leave and don’t get promoted when they return or perhaps have had their job roles changed. These could happen to fathers returning to work as well.
However, the hope is that with both parents taking parental leave, it becomes such a norm that employers cannot discriminate against parents returning to work.
The good news is, at least the Ministry of Manpower has got your back with laws against retrenchment and dismissal.
Fintech companies vs banks on paternity leave
We know how traditional banking is. What about other companies in the financial industry?
Many fintech companies offer their employees 4 weeks or more of paid paternity leave, which is significantly more than the 2 weeks of government-paid paternity leave that is available to all working fathers in Singapore. UK-based foreign exchange fintech firm Wise offers 18 weeks of paternity leave.
Insurers like Prudential, will increase its paternity leave to 4 weeks from 3 weeks for fathers of Singaporean children born from 1 Jan 2024. Meanwhile Singapore-based insurance company Singlife already offers 16 weeks of parental leave.
While the amount of parental leave differs, it’s evident that companies are making changes to more equal parental leave.
Now if only other sectors could follow suit?
Larger changes ahead?
So, what’s the deal with paternity leave in the future? Pretty positive it seems. People are saying that not only financial companies but all sorts of businesses are going to start giving more paternity leave. Even the Singaporean government is getting in on it, planning to double government-paid paternity leave in 2024. It’s like a big thumbs-up to all the working dads out there.
But it’s not just about the money folks in suits are making. As more companies hop on the paternity leave train, it’s spreading to other industries too. Everybody’s starting to realise that work isn’t everything. There’s life outside of the office, and it’s essential to strike that balance and make things fair for everyone.
So, the bottom line is, paternity leave isn’t just a trendy thing; it’s changing the way we work. It shows that dads are stepping up at home and that our workplaces are getting with the times. It’s all about creating a better, more balanced, and family-friendly world of work.
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