More childcare centres set up at workplaces

Islander Pre-school, which opened in Jan 2016 to cater to people working on Sentosa Island.
Islander Pre-school, which opened in Jan 2016 to cater to people working on Sentosa Island. ST PHOTO: ALICIA CHAN

Numbers up by nearly 50% from 2012 as more women enter workforce

For a growing number of parents, junior is only a stone's throw away in a childcare centre near their workplace.

Last year, there were 390 childcare centres at workplaces, which include those in commercial or government buildings, or industrial estates. This is a rise of nearly 50 per cent from that in 2012.

Last month, a childcare centre even opened on Sentosa. Islander Pre-School, under the EtonHouse chain, became the third pre-school there and caters to those working on the island.

Childcare centres at workplaces made up 31 per cent of more than 1,200 childcare centres here last year, up from 26 per cent in 2012, according to figures from the Early Childhood Development Agency.

The increase in such workplace childcare centres comes amid higher demand for childcare services as more women enter the workforce.

It also follows an enhancement of the Workplace Child Care Centre Scheme in 2013, to allow all building owners or employers to apply for grants that cover up to half the cost of converting their premises into a childcare centre for employees. Only government-owned buildings were eligible previously.

Firms with childcare centres in their office premises said there was high demand for such services and they wanted to support their staff.

OCBC - the first bank here to have an on-site childcare centre - partnered the National Trades Union Congress twice to set up The Little Skool-House centres.

One is at OCBC Centre in Raffles Place, set up in 2007, and the other was set up in Tampines Junction office complex in 2010 to meet the needs of parents in the bank's Tampines branch in a building nearby.

OCBC's head of human resource planning Jacinta Low said: "We want to give (our) staff peace of mind, knowing that their child is well cared for in a safe environment, and encourage employees to be more involved in the crucial growing years of their children."

But operators noted some companies may not be keen to have childcare facilities on their premises.

Ms June Rusdon, chief executive of Busy Bees Asia, which owns brands such as Learning Vision, said: "Some building owners have the perception that having a childcare centre negatively affects the 'image' of their building."

Kinderland Educare Services general manager Seet Lee Kiang also noted that some owners of private buildings seem less keen on allocating space for childcare facilities.

Meanwhile, firms said they benefit from having workplace childcare centres.

IT firm NCS' human resource head Doreen Loh said: "We've observed higher productivity and lower absenteeism rate among the parents." Parents said having children in centres at their workplace and not near their homes has benefits.

Mr Derrick Sim, 31, who co-owns a marine services company with his father, works in an office on Sentosa. His two-year-old daughter is enrolled at Islander Pre-School.

"My company is a family business, so having my child enrolled in a centre on Sentosa allows for more opportunity for family bonding, as both my father and I can spend time with my daughter," he said.

OCBC process and service innovation manager Rebecca Chiew, 32, has two sons in the pre-school in OCBC Centre.

She said: "I get to spend more time with them during our morning and evening commutes. Having the pre-school and my office in the same building is also useful during emergencies - I can rush to them quickly when the need arises."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 01, 2016, with the headline 'More childcare centres set up at workplaces'. Print Edition | Subscribe