From next year, fathers will get a second week of compulsory paid leave to spend time with their baby and a bigger share of their wives' maternity leave.
These changes, when combined with the existing baby leave they get, could give a new father a total of eight weeks of leave. But they have to use the new perks before their child turns one year old.
The additions, announced by Senior Minister of State Josephine Teo in Parliament yesterday, are part of an official effort to encourage couples to have more babies by getting fathers more involved in parenting.
To spur fathers to do more, those whose children are born from Jan 1 next year will get two weeks of mandatory paid paternity leave. Only one week is now compulsory. The second week is up to companies.
The Government will pay for the extra week of leave, capped at $2,500 per week, including Central Provident Fund contributions.
Working mothers can share up to four weeks of their paid maternity leave with their husbands from July next year. Now, they can share only one out of the 16 weeks they get.
Together with one week of childcare leave and one week of unpaid infant care, fathers can get a total of eight weeks off work. Mrs Teo acknowledged businesses may be concerned about the extra leave affecting their manpower needs. But the changes are being announced eight months before they take effect, to give employers time to plan their staffing schedules, she said.
To qualify for the paternity leave and shared parental leave, fathers must be married to the child's mother, and the child must be a Singapore citizen.
In another change, mothers who adopt will get 12 weeks of paid leave to look after their adopted child, up from the current four weeks. The adopted child must be a Singapore citizen below 12 months of age and adopted on or after July 1 next year.
Mr Kurt Wee, president of the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises, said given the gloomy economic outlook, employers would have preferred 18 to 24 months' notice. "We understand that male employees don't have kids every year.
"But in the years that they do, they may take quite a lot of time off from work. Can they be given automatic approval to defer their reservist training that year?" he asked.