NTU employees donate over $13 million worth of unused leave

Students at NTU. Some $4.17 million raised under the exercise was channelled to the NTU Priorities Fund, which has helped students affected by the pandemic.
Students at NTU. Some $4.17 million raised under the exercise was channelled to the NTU Priorities Fund, which has helped students affected by the pandemic.PHOTO: NTU

SINGAPORE - More than 1,900 faculty members and staff at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) have donated a record $13.68 million worth of unused leave to student aid and school advancement.

This marks an increase of more than 33 per cent from last year's donation of $10.25 million.

NTU employees gave a total of 27,593 days of unused leave this year, up from 20,145 days last year, according to a statement by the university on Tuesday (Nov 23).

This is the second year that NTU's Leave Redemption and Donation Exercise has taken place. It began last year to allow employees to give their unused vacation leave to an NTU fund of their choice.

University staff donate the monetary value of their unused leave based on individual salary rates, said NTU.

An average of 14 days of leave were pledged by 1,978 faculty members and staff.

Among them is Mr Chin-Hsien Cheng, a project officer at the Asian School of the Environment, who gave 26 leave days to the NTU Priorities Fund.

Mr Cheng said: "In these uncertain times, while we are all impacted by the Covid-19 outbreak, the students are still our priority.

"I also enjoy my research work, and hence the vacation leave is not that important to me. It is my pleasure to donate it to students."

Of the $13.68 million raised this year, $4.17 million was channelled to the NTU Priorities Fund.

The fund targets urgent needs identified by the university's leadership. Launched in April last year as part of the university's Covid-19 relief package, it has provided financial support for NTU students from Singapore and abroad who are affected by the pandemic and have no other avenue for help.

To date, 1,425 students have received financial assistance of more than $2 million from the university's Covid-19 relief package, said NTU.

NTU senior vice-president of administration Tan Aik Na said: "With the prolonged Covid-19 pandemic, many employees have stepped forward to ask how we can do more, especially for our students. This latest round of donations will enable us to boost our programmes and financial assistance to our students and ensure that no NTU student is left behind due to this pandemic."

Among the 900 employees who donated a total of 30 days of leave each - the maximum number of days allowed under the exercise - is Professor Thambipillai Srikanthan, executive director of the Cyber Security Research Centre at NTU.

He said: "While IT access has helped mitigate Covid-19's impact on access to information and social connection, my colleagues and I are keenly aware of its impact on students' financial worries and other concerns."

Prof Srikanthan added that pitching in 30 of his 42 days of leave this year is a small price to pay, having personally seen how the funds have been used to support students such as by providing transportation fees.

"As a university community, we have to do all that we can to support our students during this pandemic. When we contribute what we can, we lift up everyone around us."

An online survey of 474 people by The Straits Times last year found that more than half of the respondents wanted their employers to allow them to donate unused leave.

Those who were interested in donating leave said they would prefer to give to charity instead of being forced to clear days owing or have them forfeited.

Meanwhile, some of those who preferred not to donate their leave said they would rather spend time with their loved ones or be allowed to encash their days owed.

Singapore Human Resources Institute president Low Peck Kem said such schemes amount to a win-win situation for companies with regard to employee engagement - they constitute good corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities and benefit those in need.

Whether other companies should follow suit depends on what they aim to achieve, she said, noting that some companies might seek to understand why employees have a high proportion of unused leave instead of just allowing employees to donate their unused leave.

“The annual leave entitlement serves to ensure that employees have a fair share of ‘off’ time to revitalise and take a break,” said Ms Low.