Channel NewsAsia - Extended leave benefits for dads, unwed mums passed into law in Singapore

From 1 Jan next year, new fathers will get two weeks of paternity leave, while unwed mothers will get 16 weeks of maternity leave.

Channel NewsAsia

A father and his child

New fathers will get two weeks of Government-paid paternity leave, while unwed mothers will get 16 weeks of maternity leave from Jan 1 next year, after Parliament passed changes to the Child Development Co-Savings Act (CDCA) on Thursday (Nov 10).

Currently, fathers are entitled to only one week of compulsory, Government-paid paternity leave, with a second week provided by their employers on a voluntary basis. Unwed mothers, meanwhile, are entitled to eight weeks of maternity leave under the Employment Act.

Responding to a question on the take-up rate for paternity leave, Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin noted that this was 42 per cent in 2015 and 38 per cent in 2014.

Speaking in Parliament on Thursday, he said that studies will be conducted to investigate what is preventing more fathers from exercising their paternity leave entitlement.


The Amendment Bill also provided for shared parental leave to be increased from one to four weeks, from Jul 1 next year. This refers to leave taken from the spouse’s maternity leave, if she opts to share it.

Shared parental leave was introduced in mid-2013. According to data from the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF), about 1,400 mothers shared maternity leave with their husbands last year, roughly the same as in 2014.

All in, "about 4,000 fathers have taken shared parental leave as at end-August 2016," said Mr Tan, adding that even though the leave enhancements are focused on the critical infant period, active fatherhood must continue beyond infancy.

Including the six days of childcare leave and one week of unpaid infant care leave that fathers are currently entitled to, the changes bring the number of leave days fathers can take in their child’s first year to up to two months.


The extension of maternity leave benefits to unwed mothers complements an earlier move to ensure that children will not be excluded from state support for the fact that they were born to unwed parents.

Earlier this year, Mr Tan announced that children of unwed parents, born from Sep 1, 2016, will be eligible for Child Development Account benefits. These accounts help pay for childcare and healthcare needs, with the Government matching deposits made by parents up to S$6,000.

Based on statistics provided by MSF, there were 518 children born to unwed mothers in 2015, compared to 557 in 2014.


Other key changes to the CDCA provide for greater support for adoptive parents.

From Jul 1 next year, adoptive mothers will get 12 weeks of adoption leave. For the first and second child, the first four weeks of the leave will be paid for by their employers and the last eight weeks will be funded by the Government. For the third and subsequent child, all 12 weeks of leave will be funded by the Government.

Currently, adoption leave is for four weeks, and is fully paid by the Government.

From Jan 1, unwed people adopting children will qualify for leave, with women eligible for adoption leave and men eligible for paternity leave. This is intended to help those who are eligible bond with and care for their adopted child.

There were 326 adoption applications in 2015, down slightly from 352 in 2014. In general, about half of all adoption applications are for children below 12 months old.

Less than than 5 per cent of adoption applications are by unwed people, according to data provided by MSF.


Two weeks of paid paternity leave: Fathers can choose to clear the two-week block of leave within 16 weeks from the birth of the child.

Alternatively, they can work out an agreement with their employer to take the leave flexibly by days within a year from the birth of the child.

Four weeks of shared parental leave: Parents can decide how to apportion the four weeks of shared parental leave between them at any time before the child turns 1 year old. The decision cannot be changed once it is made.

Fathers can choose to use the shared leave in one continuous stretch or flexibly by days, subject to his employer's agreement.

12 weeks of adoption leave for mothers: This must be used within a year from the birth of the child. The mother should clear the leave at one go from the date of her formal intent to adopt. Alternatively, she can work out an agreement with her employer to clear an eight-week stretch and take the remaining four weeks of leave flexibly.

Source: Channel NewsAsia

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