New mums at StanChart to get 20 weeks' paid leave

New mums at StanChart to get 20 weeks' paid leave
PHOTO: The Straits Times

StanChart ups the ante in maternity leave, but other firms 'unlikely to follow suit'

Mother-to-be Adelle Li-Hoskin, 31, a client manager at Standard Chartered Singapore, could hardly believe it when she heard she would get more time, fully paid, to spend with her baby.

Her employer announced yesterday that it would soon offer 20 weeks of paid maternity leave to its female staff in one of the most generous maternity packages in Singapore.

Working mothers now get 16 weeks of paid maternity leave.

Madam Li-Hoskin, who is six months pregnant, said: "I was really elated after I verified with an HR colleague that this will apply to all births after April 1, so I'll be eligible."

The bank said new adoptive mothers will also get 20 calendar weeks of leave, compared with the current industry entitlement of four weeks.

StanChart's initiative comes after the Government announced earlier this month that civil servants will get an additional month of unpaid infant care leave.

Though at least one other employer - bus firm Tower Transit - gives new mothers 26 weeks of paid leave, StanChart, where women make up almost half of its 8,000 employees, is believed to be the first in Singapore to give such generous benefits on a large scale.

But human resource experts think that it is unlikely other firms will offer such benefits, due to the weak economy, as well as cost and productivity considerations.

HR consulting firm AYP Asia founder Annie Yap said: "The hiring situation is weak and the job market is competitive, which means that mothers would likely be concerned about their prospects after taking extended maternal leave. It is also a challenge for employers, especially if the mother is working in a strategic position."

Singapore Human Resources Institute president Erman Tan pointed out that such perks would encourage, but not determine, an employee's decision to have a family.

He said: "Perhaps measures such as staggered leave and a good support system that would allow working from home would be more helpful to firms who still wish to help and motivate their staff."

But MP Desmond Choo, who is a National Trades Union Congress' champion for women and family, thinks the bank's move will "push the envelope" and hopes that more companies would follow suit.

"Standard Chartered is also facing the same difficult environment that other firms face but it is willing to go the distance to recognise their employees' need to balance work and family," he said.

"In the long term, employees will reward companies that treasure them."

StanChart's head of human resources here, Ms Charlotte Thng, said staff would feel more motivated at work when they receive better support in the integration of their professional and personal lives.

She added: "45 per cent of the bank's management team in Singapore are women, and for the past three years, females comprise almost 50 per cent of the workforce in Singapore. We recognise the dual roles many of them have to play and want them to succeed both at work and at home."

Madam Li-Hoskin said: "As a first time mother-to-be, I can use the additional time to figure out the most suitable arrangement (to care for her baby) before I go back to work."

This article was first published on March 28, 2017.
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