SINGAPORE: Employees of British alcoholic beverage firm Diageo here in Singapore will soon be entitled to more paid parental leave.
From Jul 1, both male and female staff will be able to take 26 weeks off when they become new parents.
Currently, its 150 employees in Singapore, which serves as its Asia-Pacific headquarters, get 16 weeks of maternity leave and two weeks of paternity leave, as required by the Ministry of Manpower.
The changes are part of the company’s efforts to create a “fully inclusive and diverse workforce”, said its president for Greater China and Asia-Pacific Sam Fischer.
Apart from Singapore and its home country, the new parental leave policy will also be extended to Diageo’s offices in other markets including North America, Spain, Thailand and Australia.
Another company which recently updated its benefits to offer 26 weeks of gender-neutral parental leave is financial data and media conglomerate Bloomberg.
Employees who are primary caregivers now get 24 weeks of paid time off and 10 “transition days”. The latter allows employees to take a day off per week for 10 consecutive weeks upon returning to work.
Previously, primary caregivers, regardless of gender, were entitled to 18 weeks of parental leave.
“We recognise that every family is different, so our policies should reflect the needs of each and every colleague – across the world and regardless of gender,” founder Michael Bloomberg said in a May 15 announcement.
With the change, six employees in Singapore will get to look forward to a longer leave, said a company spokesperson.
What’s being offered by Diageo and Bloomberg, which is way beyond the requirement stipulated by local authorities, is probably among the most generous parental leave policies available here, according to ManpowerGroup Singapore’s country manager Linda Teo.
Others that also provide employees with more than what is mandated by the Government include insurers Aviva and Prudential. The former offers 16 weeks of parental leave at full pay to all full-time workers in Singapore, while the latter allows female employees to take six months off and three weeks leave for male staff.
New mothers working at Societe Generale are entitled to 20 weeks of paid maternity leave – an additional month more after the French bank updated its policy at the start of the year. New fathers also get a longer paternity leave of three weeks.
Since the roll-out in Jan 1, four Singapore-based staff have benefited from the enhanced policy, said the bank’s spokesperson.
Meanwhile at Netflix, there is no fixed period for parental leave – in line with the company’s unique “unlimited leave” system – as long as “employees and managers work closely together to understand what works for both the employee's family as well as the business”.
A company spokesperson told CNA: “We introduced our parental leave program with the goal to provide a flexible amount of time away to allow our new parents, mothers and fathers, the chance to care for and bond with their new child without the concern of quickly returning to work.”
Such changes in parental leave policies come as companies recognise the growing demand for work-life balance and evolving gender attitudes towards childcare duties, said Ms Teo.
Having more generous parental leave has also been seen as a way to attract and retain talent, added the human resource expert.
“As high levels of talent shortage have resulted in a strong competition for talent among companies within their industries, offering such perks in addition to an attractive salary can play a major factor in influencing an employee’s decision to stay or leave,” said Ms Teo.
“They recognise that the benefits outweigh the costs of offering these perks, such as saving on the time and cost of finding new replacements due to high attrition rate.”
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STILL A MINORITY
Nevertheless, companies with such policies remain a minority in Singapore, with cost being a factor.
“Besides the monthly salary and additional costs incurred to hire a temporary replacement, employers have to ensure productivity is not affected when the staff goes on leave,” said Ms Teo.
As such, out-of-the-norm parental leave benefits here tend to be offered by large multinational companies and technology firms, she added.
On the issue of cost, firms that CNA approached declined to reveal specific figures.
While there were cost increases, Societe Generale’s spokesperson would only say that they “were viewed as an acceptable and fair investment” into its workforce.
Diageo’s Mr Fischer said in an emailed response: “This is not a figure we would disclose. However, we do believe it to be a worthy investment in the long-term vitality of Diageo and aligns to our values and purpose.”
Ms Teo from ManpowerGroup Singapore also urged companies to monitor and ensure that employees do not feel penalised when applying for these enhanced benefits.
She noted how there could be workers who choose not to go on extended leave for fear that it might affect their employment and career progression.
Companies told CNA that they also offer a range of flexible working arrangements, and put in other measures to foster a positive workplace culture such as by garnering the support of supervisors.
At Aviva Singapore, it has been fostering an environment of trust with the implementation of honour-based sick leave since 2013.
“Over time, through the policies implemented, we have fostered a safe environment that promotes trust,” said its people director for Southeast Asia Anuradha Purbey.
“Employees understand that here in Aviva, it is not the culture to penalise staff for taking time off work,” she added, while citing the example of an employee who was recently promoted to assistant manager even though he was away on a four-month paternity leave last year.
Over at Diageo, there has been “a lot of excitement in the office” since the new parental leave benefits were announced.
“A work-life balance is critical and parental leave is part of that,” Mr Fischer told CNA. “We hope the policy will support employees to experience the joy of raising a young family, while continuing to thrive at work.”