So, you’re about to welcome a baby into the family. On your burgeoning to-do list are shopping for baby products, child-proofing your home and… tying up loose ends at work before you go on maternity or paternity leave.
Mothers-to-be and fathers-to-be are entitled to a certain amount of paid maternity or paternity leave in Singapore. Here’s what you need to know.
Who is eligible for maternity leave in Singapore?
All women who give birth to Singapore citizen children are entitled to government-paid maternity leave.
Mothers-to-be of non-citizen children will have to be covered by the Employment Act in order to receive government-paid maternity leave. (That being said, many expats do nonetheless receive maternity leave paid for by their companies.)
To be eligible for maternity leave, you must also have have been working for your employer (or been self-employed) for at least 3 continuous months before the birth of the child.
How long is maternity leave in Singapore for citizens, PRs and foreigners?
The nationality or PR status of the parent does not affect their maternity or paternity leave entitlement. It is the child’s nationality that counts.
If the child is a Singapore citizen, the mother is entitled to 16 weeks of government-paid maternity leave.
If the child is NOT a Singapore citizen, the mother is entitled to 12 weeks of maternity leave provided she is covered by the Employment Act. Only the first 8 weeks of maternity leave are paid by the government.
Who is eligible for paternity leave in Singapore?
For fathers-to-be, qualifying for paternity leave is a little more complicated. Here are the conditions:
- Your child must be a Singapore citizen
- You must have been lawfully married to the child’s mother between conception and birth. If you were not married at the time the child’s mother fell pregnant, you need to get married before the birth of the child in order to qualify for paternity leave.
- You must have been working for your employer (or been self-employed) for a continuous period of at least 3 months before the birth of your child.
- If you are self-employed, you must also have lost income during the paternity leave period.
How long is paternity leave in Singapore for citizens, PRs and foreigners?
For fathers of Singapore citizen children, the government-paid paternity leave entitlement is 2 weeks.
Fathers of non-citizen children aren’t entitled to paternity leave.
What is the shared parental leave scheme?
This scheme allows working fathers of Singapore citizen children to share up to 4 weeks of their wives’ 16 weeks of paid maternity leave. This does not affect the father’s own 2-week paternity leave entitlement.
The main requirements are that the mother qualify for 16 weeks of government-paid maternity leave, and that the parents be lawfully married to each other.
What should you do to apply for your maternity leave?
You must give your employer at least one week’s notice before going on maternity leave (although you should definitely tell your boss much earlier if you don’t want him/her to make your life miserable), and inform them as soon as possible of your delivery once you’ve given birth. Failure to do so without a good reason may result in your maternity leave being halved.
Mothers have some flexibility in deciding when to take their maternity leave, which can be used up in one block or divided into two or more blocks, with the consent of employer. We’ve heard of mothers working all the way until the day before they give birth, as well as those who choose to start their maternity leave 4 weeks before delivery to prepare and rest. This is the earliest possible start date.
Regardless of when you choose to start your maternity leave, the 16 straight weeks (or 12 weeks if the child is not a Singapore citizen) will then commence.
The responsibility is on the employee to come to a mutual agreement with her employer as to when she wishes to take her maternity leave.
Note that the first 8 weeks must be taken in one continuous stretch. Thereafter, the final 8 weeks (or 4 weeks if the child is not a Singapore citizen) can be taken flexibly over the first 12 months from the child’s birth, with the employer’s consent.
When calculating the number of days in the flexible leave component, non-working days, rest days and public holidays aren’t counted. For someone who works a 5-day week, 1 week of maternity leave would thus be equivalent to five days.
Horror stories of mums on maternity leave
There are some laws protecting pregnant women from dismissal, but in practice many women do find themselves forced out of the workplace when they fall pregnant.
Dismissing an employee because of, or during pregnancy is officially against the law in Singapore. Furthermore, if a woman has worked for an employer for at least 3 months when she is certified pregnant by a doctor, the employer is obliged to continue paying her salary throughout her maternity leave if she is dismissed “without sufficient cause”.
The problem is, it IS legal to dismiss a pregnant employee based on other factors such as performance criteria, and there are many grey areas not covered by the legislation, and so, it’s not uncommon for employers to dismiss or demote pregnant employees, sad as it might be. There are stories of pregnant employees being edged out of the workplace, or cut out of projects, so that they’d become unhappy enough to resign themselves.
All of this is anecdotal but frequent enough to be cause for concern. According to a 2017 report, the number of pregnant women unfairly dismissed has fallen since 2012, but that has not prevented employers from using more subtle forms of discrimination, often with the goal of getting pregnant employees to resign, or accept a lower rank.
What should you do if you are dismissed during your maternity leave?
File a dispute in writing with MOM within two months of the birth of your child by using this appeal form from the MOM.
You can also seek a lawyer if your appeal is rejected. Even if the law will not protect you, your lawyer might be able to wrangle a private settlement from your former employer.
Do you think pregnant women are adequately protected at work? Share your views in the comments.