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Idea of mandatory eldercare leave will be reviewed

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JANICE HENG on 08 Mar 2014

Singapore Press Holdings Ltd

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THE Government will look at whether to make eldercare leave mandatory, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Manpower Hawazi Daipi said yesterday, four months after his ministry said there were no such plans yet. This is part of efforts to deal with Singapore’s ageing society, he added.


He was responding to calls from MPs on both sides of the House. People’s Action Party MP Fatimah Lateef (Marine Parade GRC) noted that many elderly people are taken to and from medical appointments by family members who may be working.


She suggested annual eldercare leave of one week per worker as “a good number to start off with”.


Fellow PAP MP Ellen Lee (Sembawang GRC) noted that her party’s Women’s Wing called for mandatory eldercare leave at its annual conference last month.


And Workers’ Party MP Lee Li Lian (Punggol East) said that the two days of eldercare leave which civil servants get are “a good start, but... not enough.”


She also cited a 2010 Manpower Ministry survey finding that only 10.6 per cent of private companies offered eldercare leave, and these were large firms with 200 or more workers. “This is again plainly insufficient,” she said.


In reply, Mr Hawazi said: “The Government will review the issue of legislated parent or eldercare leave as part of our broader efforts to address the challenges of an ageing society.”


This was a shift in his ministry’s stance last November, when such leave was suggested by Nominated MP Mary Liew and Dr Chia Shi-Lu (Tanjong Pagar GRC). Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob had also called for it last October.


“We do not have plans to legislate any family leave schemes at this present stage,” Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin said last November.


Both then and yesterday, however, MOM noted the need to let firms adjust to new and enhanced leave schemes from last year’s Marriage and Parenthood Package.


It includes benefits such as a mandatory week of paternity leave to encourage Singaporeans to have children.


Mr Hawazi said yesterday: “We need to give businesses some time to adjust and adapt, not just to these leave requirements, but also the broader effects of the economic restructuring and foreign manpower tightening.”


Such consideration would be a boon to short-handed small and medium enterprises, said Mr John Kong, managing director of building supplies firm M Metal.


“In principle, I think it is a very good move. I have no objections. But the timing is important.”


It might be better in two years’ time, “when the dust has settled” from restructuring, he suggested.


TIME TO ADJUST


We need to give businesses some time to adjust and adapt, not just to these leave requirements, but also the broader effects of the economic restructuring and foreign manpower tightening.


– Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Manpower Hawazi Daipi


Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.

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