SPEECH DURING THE 2ND READING OF THE CHILD DEVT CO-SAVINGS (AMDT 2) BILL
Lobbying for :
(1) Strengthening Maternity Protection
(2) Strengthening Support to SAHMs
(3) Extending Benefits to Unwed Fathers and Foster Parents
Mdm Speaker, I rise in support of this Bill and welcome the enhancements as it is a move in the right direction to support shared parenting.
However, I urge that we pay attention to the consumption rate of paternity leave as only 40% of fathers used their 1 week paternity leave in 2015. More needs to be done to help young fathers overcome mindset and workplace constraints to improve consumption rate.
Besides enhancing leave schemes for young parents, Government should consider caregivers of elderly and other dependents as well. It is suggested that we allow flexing of medical leave provided under Employment Act for caregiving needs.
I have four points to make, in the areas of unwed fathers; maternity protection; Stay-At-Home-Mums; and foster parents.
1. Unwed Fathers
Enhancements has been made to grant fathers of adoptive children the 2 weeks of Paternity Leave, and while unwed mothers are now entitled to full maternity leave of 16 weeks, are there considerations made to allow unwed fathers to enjoy the same?
While they may be few but due to circumstances, there may be fathers who have to bear the responsibility of caring for the infant in the absence of the baby’s mother.
2. Maternity Protection
Female employees who are pregnant or on maternity leave are protected by law from being dismissed or retrenched. Can the protection be extended beyond pregnancy and maternity leave period so as to give security and assurance to mothers who return to work after childbirth?
The transition back to work after maternity leave ends is not an easy period as they learn to cope with balancing demands of work and needs of their babies.
While they were away, their jobs may have been re-allocated by employers and upon their return these mothers may face possibilities of re-deployment or even redundancy.
As a result these mothers may eventually be out of the workforce whether by choice or not and it becomes a lose-lose situation for the mothers and economy.
The ILO Maternity Protection Convention No.183 states that: “The standard also prohibits employers to terminate the employment of a woman during pregnancy or absence on maternity leave, or during a period following her return to work, except on grounds unrelated to pregnancy, childbirth and its consequences, or nursing. Women returning to work must be returned to the same position or an equivalent position paid at the same rate.”
3. Stay-At-Home Mothers
Studies have shown that women choose to leave the workforce mainly due to family commitments and whether they are raising children or caring for elderly dependents, their contribution is invaluable to our society and nation’s development.
However the work that these women are doing goes unpaid and they are relying on financial resources of their spouses, loved ones alone. Without financial independence, their retirement adequacy is questionable.
Hence it should be a priority to provide support and interventions to help these women in securing their retirement.
i. Transit PME women Back-to-Work
As educational standards of workforce rises and women choosing to have children later, more and more who leave the workforce are PMEs in mid-career.
This lost to the talent pool can be mitigated by enabling seamless transition of these women back to work. While many of their skills may have become outdated or irrelevant in the many years when they were at home, these PME women do possess skills and experience which can be transferable to new jobs.
Various Professional Conversion Programmes (PCP) targeted at mid-career PMEs can be enhanced to make the jobs more attractive to back-to-work PME women in terms of pay, career prospects and flexibility in work arrangements. At the same time, improving on the delivery mode for training and duration will entice more to make the commitment to embark on PCP.
Besides the Career Support Programme (CSP) and PCP, to give confidence to these women and also potential employers, I suggest the introduction of a “Returnship Programme” spanning 4 to 6 months to facilitate the matching of women jobseekers and employers.
During the Returnship period, women jobseekers are given guidance and training to update her skills, better understand the job and ascertain her suitability for the position.
Upon successful completion of Returnship, women jobseeker can embark on PCP for further training to make the career switch. This can be done through an enhancement of the current PCP and CSP.
ii. Income Supplement
Besides granting CPF Cash Top Up Relief to encourage spouses and loved ones to voluntarily contribute to the CPF accounts of these stay-at-home mothers, the government should recognise the value of the unpaid work done by these women. Can government also regularly top up the CPF accounts of these mothers directly?
On the Workfare Scheme, can mothers who are younger than 35 years old and spouse has higher than $70,000 assessable income who engage in part-time, temporary or freelance jobs be entitled to cash supplement, CPF contributions and training grant too?
This is to encourage mothers to stay in connection with the job market and keep their skills updated while they are away. Thus, making the transition back to workforce in future an easier and smoother one.
4. Extension of childcare leave to foster parents?
Expansion of leave to single parents and adoptive parents is laudable, perhaps timely to also consider extension of child care leave to foster parents fostering young children so that they can spend time helping the foster children to settle into their new home.
The Fostering Scheme under the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) provides care arrangements for children who have been abandoned, neglected or ill-treated by their parents or guardians, or those whose parents or guardians are in ill-health and, therefore, unable to look after them.