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Enhance recognition awards for those who support NSmen: CSNS

The Committee to Strengthen National Service (CSNS) has proposed that more be done to engage employers and enhance recognition awards for those who support NSmen.

SINGAPORE: Operationally-ready National Servicemen (NSmen) need the support of employers to fulfil their NS obligations.

The Committee to Strengthen National Service (CSNS) has proposed that more be done to engage employers and enhance recognition awards for those who support NSmen.

The Committee proposed that these be done by the Employer and Business Council -- one of the new councils under a restructured Advisory Council on Community Relations in Defence (ACCORD).

Under the proposed restructure, there will also be an Educational Institutions Council, and a Family and Community Council.

The three councils will review and recommend measures to raise support for NS and increase public understanding of Total Defence.

The Committee said the restructuring of ACCORD could deepen engagement with NS stakeholders such as employers, families, and educational institutions.

Industry players say the suggestions are "encouraging" while noting that companies are generally supportive of their employees' NS obligations.

The CSNS has also proposed a “NS Mark” -- awarded to companies in recognition of pro-NS policies and human resource practices.

The mark could be an additional factor for consideration when these companies bid for contracts from the defence and home ministries.

Awards could also be given to co-workers or supervisors who have supported NSmen.

The CSNS said it has heard a lot of feedback from NSmen about the challenges of balancing their careers with NS commitments. It also acknowledged similar concerns by employers, especially the small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

"At an SME level… for them to react to a situation where a segment of their headcount is removed, it's more challenging,” said Kurt Wee, president of the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises.

“By and large, SMEs see NSmen's obligations to national defence as part and parcel of operating in Singapore."

Mr Wee hopes the NS Mark will provide a framework on how SMEs can better support NSmen.

Still, others say that to get buy-in from smaller businesses, it is important to look at more help for them when an employee is called up.

"If there could be some empowerment, flexibility on the part of the individual to say, ‘I know that my training programme is going to be less intensive, then allow me to have the flexibility to go back to my company, especially if I'm working on a big project.’" said David Ang, director of corporate services at Human Capital Singapore.

There are also intangible benefits to having employees committed to their NS obligations.

"Increasingly, employers are looking for strong employees; strong not just in a technical sense but also in the sense of value and the sense of contribution,” said Gerald Singham, steering committee member of the CSNS.

“How a soldier performs during his National Service is a very strong factor to employers because you then know a person's physical, mental, and emotional make-up in terms of how he does his best for a national cause. And how a person does something for a national cause will also then impact on how an employee will also do something for the company."

The committee suggested that employers also be given more information on NS matters, so they can better appreciate its significance. 

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