Maternity Leave – How much is enough?
Share with us your take on maternity AND paternity leave, and do you think Singapore should increase the number of weeks?
Think about this.
You’re thirty-six weeks pregnant, a lot heavier than you were 8 months ago. You are lumbering, and constantly feel uncomfortable and restless when moving around. Your baby’s due at the end of September. As excited as you are about the nearing due-date, you can’t seem to comprehend why you’re up every hour in the night — and yet, you’re worried about not being able to get out of bed the next day.
Why? Because it’s a work day.
According to the Ministry of Manpower website:
“An eligible employee is entitled to absent herself from work four weeks immediately before and twelve weeks immediately after delivery, totaling 16 weeks.
Where there is a mutual agreement with her employer, an employee can take the last eight weeks (9th to 16th week) of maternity leave flexibly over a 12-month period from the child’s birth. The number of days of maternity leave that can be taken flexibly is equivalent to eight weeks’ worth of working days, up to a maximum of 48 days.”
Our Swedish counterparts are clocking in 68 weeks of maternity leave (plus paternity benefits!) while the Australians and the Brits get 52 weeks. How fortunate! Some countries, however, aren’t so lucky. Nepal, Philippines, Malaysia and China only gets 7, 8, 9 and 10 weeks of maternity leave respectively.
Yes, we’re fortunate enough to be granted maternity leave, but these privileges do not change the fact that what Singaporean women really, really want is to have more than 16 weeks to help us flow through the transition of preparing ourselves for the psychological transition from full-time professional to ‘full-time’ mum!
Mum, XY Heng shares with theAsianparent “I feel that the most unfair thing about 16 weeks maternity leave is that it includes Saturday and Sunday. Its unfair to mothers like me who do not work on Saturday and Sunday. After taking into account, there is a total of 32 days in 16 weeks! So this means that Singaporeans mothers only have 3 months of leave to stay at home to recuperate and take care of the newborn. This is insufficient to train new maid to take care of newborn and what’s more breastfeed the newborn when the best time is the first 6 months of their life! Once gone, its gone forever!”
Another reader mum Juliana shares, “Any mother will tell you that 16 weeks maternity leave is not enough, especially those who have a tough third trimester and need to take time off earlier. BUT, which employer is willing to employ women who are going to get married/already married/going to get pregnant, in the view that they are going to take 16 weeks PAID maternity leave, maybe not once, not twice?”
Reader Jasz Ho, suggests that maternity leave should be extended to 6 months. “Before I had my first child, people around me envied that I had 16 weeks of maternity leave as compared to the previous time of 8 or 12 weeks. At that point of time, I also thought that I was blessed to have 16 weeks of maternity leave. But when my child was born, I realised the first 3 months was a tough period for a new mother. Just when I had adapted to the sleepless nights & attending to the demands of a newborn, I was to be back at work. The thought of juggling between a baby, family & work really send shivers down me and I was afraid I couldn’t handle so much stress.
Maternity leave should be at least 24 weeks or equivalent of 6 months (excluding sat & sun) as the first 6 months is most crucial for a mother to bond & take good care of a baby, without the stress of having to juggle between work & family.”
In a country where the 5 Cs (Career, Car, Cash, Credit Card and Condominium) are prioritised, a lot of Singaporeans put aside the 6th C – Children. Society keeps pushing women to be mothers (news of declining birth-rate in the country are prevalent!), but they can’t have it both ways. If they want women to have children they have to support them and give them time to heal. They also need to allow women time to bond with their baby and nurture them!
The state of paternity leave benefits in Singapore is baffling too.
According to Community Development Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, childcare-related leave for fathers is provided for under the law, even though paternity leave, specifically, is not (view source). If you need any indication of the value our nation places on fatherhood, look no further.
Still, ask yourself: is 16 weeks enough?
Do share with us how you would handle maternity leave. Would you take time off before? Or just stick it out? And how have you or your spouse handled leave in the past? We welcome all comments.