Is the current parental leave sufficient for parents with premature or multiple babies in Singapore?
This was the very pertinent question posed by Nee Soon GRC MP Louis Ng in Parliament recently.
On August 1, he delivered his first Adjournment Motion in Parliament recommending that the House extends paid paternity and maternity leave for those with multiple births, and those with premature babies.
He gave a most moving speech, recounting his own experience as a father, when his twins Katie and Poppy were born premature in February this year.
More parental leave for preterm or multiple babies
In his emotional and teary-eyed speech, MP Louis Ng recounted the harrowing period when the twins were warded at Singapore General Hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and at the High Dependency Unit.
He said, “It was painful watching them stop breathing, their heart rates plummet(ing) in front of my very eyes and at times their lips turning blue. Nothing can properly describe the feeling of watching your babies go through that repeatedly. It is an experience I wish no parent has to go through.”
While Singapore mums are entitled to 16 weeks of paid maternity leave, mums with premature babies usually spend a considerable amount of time in hospital, leaving them with very little maternity leave when the babies do get discharged. In rare instances, mummies have even had to go back to work with their babies still in hospital.
PHOTO: FACEBOOK / LOUIS NG KOK KWANG
According to MP Ng, in such cases, 2 weeks of paternity leave is insufficient as well.
He stresses, “My recommendation is that we extend the parental leave for both fathers and mothers to at least cover the time the babies spends in NICU, if not the entire time the babies spend in both NICU and the High Dependency Unit or Special Care Nursery.”
MP Ng also spoke up for the cause of parents dealing with multiple births. These parents are bound to be more physically drained and stressed, and extended parental leave would be a blessing for them as well.
Apparently, countries like New Zealand, India and Germany provide extended leave for parents of preterm babies. In case of twins, France extends maternity leave by 18 weeks, and Myanmar by 4 weeks.
He ended with, “I sincerely hope that the Government will consider my recommendations, study the positive examples in other countries, do public consultations and ultimately help provide parents of preterm babies and/or births of multiples with a greater peace of mind and more precious time to bond with their babies.”
Government considering more parental leave
Well, MP Ng’s plea has not gone to waste, for the Government is “seriously considering” more help for parents of premature or multiple babies in Singapore.
In a Facebook post yesterday, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong wrote, “MP Louis Ng Kok Kwang made a heartfelt and moving speech in Parliament on Monday.”
“Every child is precious, and deserves a good start in life. We have enhanced support for parents over the years. The public service is piloting extended parental leave. We will explore further ways to help parents of preterm babies or multiple births.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Josephine Teo, also a mother of twins, has been quoted by Channel NewsAsia as saying, “I agree fully with Mr Ng that there is scope to consider how we can better support parents with preterm babies or who have to manage multiple births.”
“For practical reasons, we will always need to balance between providing support for employees with caregiving needs and employers’ concerns.”
However, she affirmed that the Government was seriously considering MP Ng’s suggestions, “We hear you, we appreciate the extraordinary trials and tribulations that you go through, and you have my personal assurance that we will study ways to better support your families.”
What do you feel about this issue, mums and dads? Should parents of premature or multiple babies get more parental leave? Let us know in the poll below!
Also READ: Revised infant care leave for Singapore parents in public sector!
(Source: The Straits Times, Channel NewsAsia)