Forum: Good time to look at legislating parent-care leave

In the Budget debate earlier this year, MP Louis Ng called for parent-care leave to be legislated for all (Call for more childcare leave and care options, Feb 28). He pointed out that employees in the public sector are entitled to two days' leave, but not all in the private sector get this.

I welcome his call to review the issue, in view of an ageing population and the increasing need for us to take on the roles of full- or part-time caregivers.

Parent-care leave is not given the same attention as other types of leave, such as childcare leave. This is unfortunate, as the caregiving demands of the elderly are stressful and may also require the same amount of, if not more, time and financial resources as taking care of the young.

Even if a maid were hired to take care of elderly parents, there is still a need for family caregivers to devote time to attending to administrative issues and providing oversight and training to the maid to ensure baseline standards are met.

Currently, the caregiver support resources available include foreign domestic worker grants, flexi-work arrangements, respite care, unpaid leave and professional caregiver training programmes.

In both good and bad ways, the pandemic has upended the way people work, forcing many employers to institute more flexible working arrangements. I believe this will benefit employees whose job nature is more administrative or back-end, allowing them to streamline their work deliverables and balance caregiving demands.

However, those who are working in front-line roles will not benefit equally from these arrangements. It may be important to address this gap and ensure that work benefits remain competitive for those in sectors with a manpower crunch, like the healthcare industry.

The Government should legislate parental care leave and make more allowances for certain subgroups - such as those in front-line jobs or those who are sole caregivers. The extra days of leave may not address the demands of the caregiver completely, but they will definitely alleviate the stressors contributing to caregiving distress, notably the lack of time to go for professional caregiver training and attend to exigencies, such as sudden hospitalisation.

The year of Covid-19 has decimated many economies, but it should also be an event from which we learn to cherish our loved ones more by spending more time with them.

Loh Ying Bei

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