Why It Matters

Leading the way on mums' leave

With Standard Chartered Bank Singapore unveiling a new maternity leave policy, will others follow suit?

The bank announced on Monday that, from April 1, it will increase the length of both maternity and adoption leave for all its Singapore-based female employees to 20 weeks - up from the 16 weeks of maternity leave and four weeks of adoption leave required by the Manpower Ministry.

The bank's more generous entitlements will be fully paid, with the Government footing the bill for eight weeks of maternity leave and four weeks of adoption leave.

To be sure, the bank is not the most generous firm here when it comes to maternity and adoption leave. Insurer Prudential Singapore offers 24 weeks of maternity leave and 12 weeks of adoption leave, and bus company Tower Transit, 26 weeks of maternity and adoption leave.

But it is laudable that StanChart's announcement comes amid - and despite - a slowing economy, which some firms may consider to be an unsuitable time to have family-friendly leave policies.

The bank is also progressive in offering five times the required length of adoption leave. Its new parenting leave duration is the same for both biological and adoptive mothers.

It is hard to say if others will follow StanChart's example. But its move despite the bleak economic outlook will, at the very least, set employers thinking and they may work towards helping parents in other ways such as through offering more flexible work arrangements.

The bank's internal studies had shown that staff feel more motivated at work when they receive better support in the integration of their professional and personal lives.

A company's internal studies are more credible than a human resource consultancy's tips on how to retain staff amid a manpower shortage.

Perhaps, with more studies from the bank, more companies will be persuaded that helping an employee succeed as a mother helps her succeed at work and, in turn, helps the company.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 31, 2017, with the headline 'Leading the way on mums' leave'. Print Edition | Subscribe