Extended paternity leave a burden for SMEs

Office workers walking along Shenton Way on April 14, 2015.
Office workers walking along Shenton Way on April 14, 2015. PHOTO: ST FILE

I agree with Association of Small and Medium Enterprises president Kurt Wee that companies will face quite a lot of strain in coping with the proposed extended paternity leave ("Parents back plan for more leave"; last Saturday).

However, I disagree with his suggestion to exempt a father from reservist duties in the year he takes paternity leave because the father would likely have to make up for the shortfall in training.

That would be a double blow for the firm he works for.

While it is helpful for a father to be at home in the first few months after a child's birth, it is not a necessity.

It may be a great idea to extend paternity leave, but it is a burden for businesses in terms of productivity and disruption to operations.

Some ways to help companies cope with the absence of employees on paternity leave could be to relax the foreign worker rules, such as freeze the foreign worker levy during that time.

With slower economic growth, employers are increasingly utilising government schemes to attract and retain employees in a sustainable and cost-efficient manner.

Extending paternity leave reduces their efforts.

The leave may not have much of an impact on multinational corporations with a large headcount but struggling small and medium-sized enterprises may not able to afford it.

For instance, for roles that require specialist knowledge, it is not always practical to arrange for a short-term replacement.

It would take time for temporary staff to get up to speed.

Francis Cheng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 10, 2016, with the headline 'Extended paternity leave a burden for SMEs'. Print Edition | Subscribe