Forum: Delicate balance must be struck when calling for more childcare leave

I am a full-time working mother of a one-year old child who goes to a childcare centre (Call for more childcare leave and care options, Feb 28).

Childcare centres are required to close for six days each year, excluding half-day closures on the eve of public holidays. That leaves my husband and I a total of six days of childcare leave to take our child for vaccinations and look after him when he is sick. This has worked for us, and we have needed to utilise only a few days from our annual leave to look after our child.

However, the numbers do not add up when the number of days of childcare leave remains the same regardless of the number of children that a couple has. While this factor may not affect a couple's decision whether to have more children, it can certainly add stress to family life when deciding childcare arrangements.

Legislation aside, Singaporeans need to recognise that they each have a part to play before beating the drum to call for more leave to look after their dependants.

As employees, they have to demonstrate that they can act responsibly. They should not treat any additional leave as an entitlement - it is a privilege which they should not abuse.

This means that they should work out a mutually acceptable arrangement with their employers and avoid burdening their colleagues where possible.

As for employers, both my husband and I have been very fortunate to have understanding employers. Upon receiving the dreaded call from the childcare centre that our child is running a fever, we often have to drop everything to pick our child up. Our bosses always tell us not to worry, and that tending to our child is most important. If all employers have this mindset, the need to legislate leave for dependants is diminished.

Furthermore, where the industry permits, employers need to recognise that "face time" does not speak of the quantity or quality of one's work.

With the advancements in technology, employers should consider flexible working arrangements. It may be helpful to obtain feedback from employers who have adopted alternative working arrangements during the Covid-19 situation on the effectiveness of such arrangements.

Recognising the delicate balance to be struck between the interests of all parties, I suggest legislating that employers grant, on top of existing leave, four days of family leave to look after children below 12 and elderly dependants above 65, with the requirement for a medical certificate or doctor's appointment card to be produced.

Lim Ruo Lin

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