MPs debate Bill to strengthen parenthood-related benefits, including doubling of paternity leave

Among the changes to the Bill, government-paid paternity benefit will be doubled from the current 14 days to 28 days of an eligible father’s total income. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE – A Bill debated in Parliament on Monday, if passed, will give effect to parenthood-related leave changes announced during Budget 2023, and provide parents greater support.

The latest enhancements to parental leave schemes, which were announced in February by Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong, include the doubling of government-paid paternity leave to four weeks and unpaid infant care leave to 12 days from Jan 1, 2024.

Other measures include an increase to the Baby Bonus Cash Gift by $3,000, and enhancing Government co-matching contributions to?the Child Development Account for eligible children born on or after Feb 14, 2023.

Ms Sun Xueling, Minister of State for Social and Family Development, said during the second reading of the Child Development Co-Savings (Amendment) Bill that the increase in paternity benefits are “critical steps that the Government is making towards normalising paternal involvement in our society”.

Today, more than half of fathers in Singapore take paternity leave, she said. “We hope this increase will allow fathers to be more involved in caring for their children from the very beginning. Research has shown that children whose fathers are more involved have better outcomes in their physical, cognitive, and emotional development.”

Locally, data from the Singapore Longitudinal Early Development Study (SG LEADS) has shown that paternity leave utilisation can increase marital satisfaction, said Ms Sun, adding that taking a longer duration of paternity leave also significantly reduces children’s behaviour problems.

Among the changes to the Bill, Government-Paid Paternity Benefit will be doubled from the current 14 days to 28 days of an eligible father’s total income.

“Fathers who cannot qualify for paternity leave under the Child Development Co-Savings Act due to their employment arrangements may be eligible for this enhanced Government-Paid Paternity Benefit, which is a cash benefit in lieu of the paternity leave,” said Ms Sun.

The limits for the Government’s payment will also be doubled for eligible self-employed fathers for their loss of income when they stop work to care for their children.?

The Bill debated on Monday also contains other clauses to improve operational efficiency and clarity, said Ms Sun.

For one thing, it will allow for a simplified revocation process for approved persons – designated persons responsible for overseeing the administration of Child Development Account funds at approved institutions – in specific scenarios.

Other clauses clarify the total number of days of lost income that can be claimed by a self-employed person for childcare purposes in a calendar year, as well as the eligibility conditions and computation of benefits under the Government-Paid Paternity Benefit, and discretionary reimbursements to employers under the Child Development Co-Savings Act?for employees employed for less than three months.

Said Ms Sun: “This Bill will strengthen our support for parents in managing their work and family commitments, as well as to encourage greater shared parental responsibility in caregiving.

“The Government is committed to this cause, and will continue to review our measures to provide greater assurance to young couples as they think about starting and growing their families.”

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Thirteen MPs have spoken on the Bill thus far, asking for more provisions ranging from childcare sick leave and equal sharing of childcare responsibility for parents, to more support for self-employed fathers and those in lower-wage jobs.

Ms Mariam Jaafar?(Sembawang GRC) asked if the number of days of childcare leave could be increased for families with two or more children, to a per-child basis. ?

Mr Melvin Yong (Radin Mas) suggested that government agencies conduct a local study to examine companies that offer employees with the best work-life balance, to see if there is a correlation between quality of work-life balance and the number of staff in the company that choose to start a family.

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