9 Swedish firms in S'pore, including H&M and AstraZeneca, to double paid paternity leave to 4 weeks

Under current Singapore laws, working fathers are entitled to two weeks of government-paid paternity leave while mothers get 16 weeks. PHOTO ILLUSTRATION: ST

SINGAPORE - Nine Swedish multinational companies in Singapore, including pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca and clothing retailer H&M, have pledged to double their paid paternity leave benefits from two to four weeks starting next year.

The #DoubleUp pledge is a step towards gender equality and creating a corporate culture that encourages fathers to be there for their babies, announced the Swedish Chamber of Commerce Singapore (SwedCham) on Thursday (Dec 9).

Other SwedCham members which have taken the pledge are engineering firm ABB, industrial company Atlas Copco, design company Bolon x The Andrews Group, appliance manufacturer Electrolux, supply chain management services provider Mentor Media, beauty company Oriflame and bearing and seal manufacturer SKF.

The move is inspired by Swedish furniture giant Ikea, which had in 2017 doubled its paid paternity leave benefits from two weeks to four.

Under current Singapore laws, working fathers are entitled to two weeks of government-paid paternity leave while mothers get 16 weeks.

Ms Oldouz Mirzaie, chief executive and regional manager of H&M South Asia and Pacific, said that by being part of the pledge, it hopes to encourage more businesses to take gender equality seriously. "A collective effort is needed to change mindsets," she added.

Mr Vinod Narayanan, country president of AstraZeneca Singapore, noted that the pandemic has seen gender roles at home evolve.

He said: "With more people embracing these changes, it is timely for companies to take another step forward by encouraging fathers to take a more active role during the early months of a child's life."

The nine companies that have signed the pledge are inviting other firms to join in and encourage men to participate actively in caregiving roles, allowing women a more equal footing in the workplace, said SwedCham. The pledge will be kept open till International Women's Day on March 8, 2022.

The launch of the pledge was timed with the release of #candid: 100 Perspectives On Gender Equality In Singapore, a coffee-table book by SwedCham featuring personal stories and reflections from men from all walks of life.

The book's message: Gender equality is the key to a harmonious family, prosperous business and thriving society.

Some of the men featured include DBS Group CEO Piyush Gupta, Commonwealth Capital Group head Andrew Kwan who is also Singapore's Ambassador to Sweden, and Lazada group chief strategy officer Magnus Ekbom.

#candid: 100 Perspectives On Gender Equality In Singapore features personal stories and reflections from men from all walks of life. PHOTO: CAROLINA RODRIGUEZ

The book is peppered with perspectives from women such as Team Singapore powerlifter Nur Aini Mohamad Yasli, former Nominated MP Eunice Olsen and the Association of Women for Action and Research executive director Corinna Lim.

Ms Lisa Ferraton, general manager of SwedCham, said the idea for the book came about around International Women's Day this year.

She added: "We realised it was the Year of Celebrating SG Women in Singapore and that it would be great if we could somehow contribute to that initiative, especially in light of the fact that Sweden has a feminist foreign policy and most of SwedCham's member companies have strong policies on gender equality."

Noting that there had been discussions around the importance of men joining in to advocate for gender equality, the idea emerged to find 100 men in Singapore who wanted to speak out on the topic.

"We hope that this collection will inspire more people to join the conversation around gender issues and we also hope that it shows that Singapore already has a broad and dynamic base that supports the cause for gender equity. By working together, we can move the needle in Singapore even further towards a more equal, sustainable and prosperous society," she said.

A digital copy of the book will be made available online while 1,500 print copies will be distributed among participants, sponsors and partners.

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