More govt-paid childcare leave during phased reopening will help parents, employers, says Louis Ng

Government-paid extra childcare leave would ease the financial burden for employers and help the parents too. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - Parents whose children need to stay at home due to coronavirus-related issues should be given extra childcare leave to take care of them, said one MP on Friday (June 5).

Speaking in Parliament during the debate on the Fortitude Budget, Mr Louis Ng (Nee Soon GRC) said that children may have to remain at home due to home-based learning (HBL) arrangements or because they exhibit coronavirus-like symptoms.

"I hope the Government will consider introducing a government-paid, Covid-related childcare leave and provide it at least until the end of Phase 2 of the reopening after the circuit breaker," he said.

Mr Ng highlighted that parents will not have sufficient childcare leave this year, and the only option many of them are left with is to take unpaid leave.

"Indeed, many parents have shared that they are doing just that, but in this business climate, parents fear losing their jobs if they continue to take unpaid leave," said Mr Ng.

Government-paid extra childcare leave would ease the financial burden for employers and help the parents too, he added.

"For parents who are working from home, this Covid-related childcare leave can help take off the pressure of balancing competing work and childcare responsibilities. They can take this leave when needed, such as helping their child catch up with HBL and their school work."

Parents who work from home are also expected by their bosses to be equally productive and meet deadlines even as they try to guide their children on HBL, said Mr Ng.

Many parents are feeling the stress of trying to balance work and looking after their children, and are concerned about coping with alternating weeks of HBL for non-graduating students, he added.

Parents will also need to stay home with their children if they exhibit Covid-19-like symptoms and there are no alternative care arrangements.

"We cannot leave it to employers and employees to work out amicable arrangements to balance business needs with childcare needs in this difficult time. In this difficult time, the Government has to step in," said Mr Ng.

He shared that other countries have already adopted similar regulations.

For example, in the US, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act expands paid leave options for working parents, including those working from home, who are unable to find childcare arrangements, entitling them up to 12 weeks of partially paid family leave.

Mr Ng also cited the case of Italy, where the government extended annual parental leave by 15 days for parents with children aged up to 12 years.

Working from home is also a challenge for those with disabilities, said Nominated MP Yip Pin Xiu during the debate over the Fortitude Budget.

One issue is whether employers can adequately physically and financially provide the assistive devices and technology that disabled employees may need to continue working.

"Many of them (people with disabilities) face socioeconomic challenges and may not be able to afford IT equipment, assistive aids and broadband to help them better cope with life in this period of time."

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