Shorten working hours to help caregivers

Two elderly individuals and a caregiver at the Pearl's Hill Care Home.
Two elderly individuals and a caregiver at the Pearl's Hill Care Home.PHOTO: ST FILE

Unlike childcare centres, daycare arrangements at elderly or disabled daycare centres tend to end fairly early - at around 4pm. This makes it difficult for a working caregiver to pick up his loved ones from the daycare centre, often leading to him needing to employ a domestic worker, which comes with a host of potential social issues and associated financial costs.

Perhaps these daycare centres can stretch daycare arrangements to around 7pm, just like childcare centres, so working caregivers can fetch their loved ones after working hours.

I have also observed how the Government has been relentless in getting employers to buy into flexible work arrangements for employees, which has been cited as a solution to the issues faced by caregivers. However, flexi-work arrangements will definitely affect the existing operational flow.

I propose that working hours be shortened instead, which is a low-hanging fruit that can be easily implemented to the benefit of a caregiver juggling caregiving needs and arrangements.

It was reported that the average full-time employee works just 38.9 hours a week in Oslo, compared with 44.6 hours in Singapore (S'pore ranks 32 out of 40 in index on work-life balance, Aug 8).

Surely the productivity gains which come with Singapore's push to be a Smart Nation can justify a reduction in working hours?

The Government can take the lead by reducing working hours by 30 minutes to one hour.

For example, instead of starting at 8.30am and ending at 6pm, employees can officially start work at 9am and leave at 5.30pm.

That additional 30 minutes of rest in the morning would help to ward off sleep deprivation, and they would be able to pick up their loved ones from daycare centres using that additional 30 minutes of buffer time.

Tan Eng Chye

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 12, 2019, with the headline 'Shorten working hours to help caregivers'. Print Edition | Subscribe