Employer called on the Government on Friday to offer incentives to small firms to let operationally ready national servicemen attend in-camp training (ICT) as it looks for ways to get more buy-in from employers for national service (NS).
These can be in the form of tax breaks or cash incentives for hiring NSmen as well as government help with employer Central Provident Fund (CPF) contributions when employees are called up.
These sugggestions were made during an employers-only focus group discussion on how to strengthen commitment to national service.
The 33 participants from companies and employer bodies said such benefits will go some way towards spurring bosses to prevent their NSmen from deferring ICT, and arrange for their duties to be parcelled out whenever the annual NS training comes up. Small and medium-sized companies (SMEs) hamstrung by small staff size can benefit more from such monetary benefits, they said.
Ms Irene Boey, consulting director of home-grown technology firm Integral Solutions, said cash incentives will be a "sweetener" for small companies. Ms Boey, who also sits on the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises Council, said: "Losing a staff every few months to ICT makes a big impact on us as it creates a big vacuum."
Participants also called on the Defence Ministry to let them know about their employees' call-up schedules for better staff deployment and to minimise disruptions in the companies.
Currently, NSmen are informed three or six months before their NS training. The onus is on them to show their bosses the call-up notices. The employer can also call up the NS training notice on the NS website by typing in an employee's details.
A few employers suggested a one-stop portal be set up for them to view the NS training commitments of their male staff.
Another suggestion was to give NSmen from small companies more leeway to defer NS training.
Second Defence Minister Chan Chun Sing, who sits on the Committee to Strengthen National Service (CSNS), attended the discussion.He said that while more will be done to recognise employers who support NS, his ministry had to be careful not to monetise the rite of passage. "We don't want to just reward but recognise the efforts," he said.
The focus group discussion on strengthening NS is in its second phase, which will end next month.
The views will be channelled to the CSNS, which is expected to issue a report to the Government early next year. The 20-member body, made up of ministers, MPs, top military brass, NSmen and employers, is chaired by Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen.
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