StanChart joins firms offering more leave for new mums

Ms Li-Hoskin, a StanChart client manager who is six months pregnant with her first child, is looking forward to a full 20 weeks of maternity leave, come June. Until now, the bank had been offering 16 weeks of maternity leave and four weeks of adoptio
Ms Li-Hoskin, a StanChart client manager who is six months pregnant with her first child, is looking forward to a full 20 weeks of maternity leave, come June. Until now, the bank had been offering 16 weeks of maternity leave and four weeks of adoption leave, as required by the Ministry of Manpower.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

All S'pore-based female staff to get 20 weeks of maternity and adoption leave from April 1

For Ms Adelle Li-Hoskin, maternity leave now promises to be a period of leisurely bonding with her child - instead of the mad rush that she feared.

The 31-year-old client manager at Standard Chartered Bank Singapore, who is six months pregnant, is looking forward to a full 20 weeks of maternity leave, come June.

From April 1, her company will increase the length of both maternity and adoption leave for all its Singapore-based female employees to 20 weeks. Until now, it had been offering 16 weeks of maternity leave and four weeks of adoption leave, as required by the Ministry of Manpower.

Its more generous entitlements will be fully paid, with the Government chipping in to pay for eight weeks of maternity leave and four weeks of adoption leave.

The bank is standardising the 20 weeks of maternity leave for its female employees globally, though adoption leave varies from market to market.

OFFER MORE FLEXIBILITY

Besides parental leave, another option to consider is a flexible working arrangement, which I believe is equally applicable to both working mothers and fathers.

MS ADELLE LI-HOSKIN, on the practices at StanChart and what other firms can offer.

"Being a first-time mother to be, there is an overwhelming amount of preparation and things to learn and do, so I really appreciate the additional four weeks," said Ms Li-Hoskin, who has been with the bank for eight years.

StanChart has 8,000 employees here, almost half of whom are women. Some believe that given the bank's prominence, its move could prompt others to follow suit, even though its benefits on this score are not the most generous in Singapore.

Bus company Tower Transit, which has 50 female bus captains, currently offers 26 weeks of maternity and adoption leave.

The Association of Women for Action and Research welcomed the bank's announcement.

Its head of advocacy and research Jolene Tan said: "From a childcare perspective, there is a case for extending the maternity leave. This is a great proactive move."

However, she said that there could be a more equal apportionment of maternity and paternity leave - the latter remains at two weeks, according to regulations.

When asked about this, Ms Li- Hoskin said: "Besides parental leave, another option to consider is a flexible working arrangement, which I believe is equally applicable to both working mothers and fathers."

She was referring to the practices at StanChart, where employees are offered the option to work part time, choose flexible working hours or work from home on selected days, subject to approval.

The bank's head of human resources, Ms Charlotte Thng, said: "People are our greatest asset... We are always looking to strengthen our staff welfare, as well as to retain and groom talent."

Other banks are looking after the needs of parents too.

OCBC Bank offers flexible work arrangements and career-break schemes to enable staff to spend more time with their families, as well as an in-house childcare centre.

Ms Jacinta Low, the head of human resource planning at OCBC Bank, said: "Beyond parental leave, we recognise that working parents, especially working mothers, also need to be supported when they are back at work."

Meanwhile, Tower Transit group communications director Glenn Lim said its maternity leave scheme has helped to attract working fathers and mothers to the company.

And while it would be more difficult for smaller companies to afford such leave packages, some have their own ways of giving busy parents the break they need.

Local small and medium-sized enterprise 3E Accounting will be giving six weeks of unpaid infant-care leave on top of the Government's maternity, adoption and paternity leave, starting next month, said its managing director Lawrence Chai.

The firm's flexible working hours have also attracted female staff, who account for 22 of its 24-strong headcount.

Mr Chai said: "Work-life balance is really important. We want to look at social responsibility as well, not just making money."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 28, 2017, with the headline 'StanChart joins firms offering more leave for new mums'. Print Edition | Subscribe