GOVERNMENT'S BABY BOOSTERS

Maternity benefits for women on short-term contracts

SOME 3,000 married women employed on short-term contracts are expected to benefit each year from new government maternity payouts.

Working mothers will be entitled to the new benefit as long as they have worked for a total of 90 days in the 12 calendar months before giving birth. The child must be Singaporean and born on or after Jan 1 this year.

The benefit is equivalent to the government-paid portion of maternity leave and calculated based on the mother's income in the 12 months before childbirth. It is capped at $10,000.

The move provides these working women with some income in the months after the birth, when they are unable to work.

This group of women did not previously qualify for maternity benefits, noted National Trades Union Congress assistant secretary-general Cham Hui Fong.

For example, if they had given birth after their work contract ended, they would receive nothing from that employer.

She said: "But now, any working woman will be covered. Whether you're self-employed, freelancing or permanently employed, you will at least have these government maternity benefits."

These women form about 15 to 17 per cent of those who work on contract, she added.

Other new measures to help working couples balance work and family commitments include an extension of protection for expectant mothers from retrenchment and unfair dismissal.

Employers will now have to pay a pregnant employee maternity benefits if, at any point of her pregnancy, she is retrenched or dismissed without sufficient cause. This is to discourage employers from cutting costs by not paying pregnant employees maternity benefits.

Parents of children aged seven to 12 will now each get two days of government-paid childcare leave a year. Previously, only those with children aged seven and below were entitled to six days of childcare leave.

In another first, married women who have adopted infants will now get four weeks of mandatory paid leave.

The leave must be taken in the 12 months after the child is born.

These new measures take effect on May 1 this year.

CHARISSA YONG