SEREMBAN - Women in the civil service will be allowed unpaid leave of up to five years to take care of their adopted or step-children, under a ruling that comes into effect from Jan 1.
"The new ruling is to allow better bonding between the woman and the child or children although they are not the biological mothers," said Public Services Department director-general Tan Sri Mohamad Zabidi Zainal in his directive.
He said those who have been caring for a child continuously for two years, referred to as "de facto adoption", would also be eligible to apply for the five-year unpaid leave that could be either taken in a single stretch or partially between the first baby and subsequent child or children.
The benefit, before this, was only accorded to those who gave birth and wished to provide better care to their babies, including to breastfeed.
Under the ruling that was introduced in 2007, biological mothers were allowed the unpaid leave after completing their entitled 90-day maternity leave with pay.
Those who adopted babies or were taking care of other people's children full time were not eligible.
Mohamad Zabidi said irrespective of the number of children they need to care for, the benefit did not extend beyond five years of having or adopting the child.
This means, if the employee takes five years of unpaid leave continuously for the first child, she will no longer be accorded this benefit for other children that may come along later.
If the mother chooses to use only two of her five years of unpaid leave for the first baby, she would have three years remaining to cover other children she might have in future.
"The period they are on unpaid leave will not be taken into account when we calculate their retirement benefits," Mohamad Zabidi said.
But, he cautioned, those who applied for the unpaid leave could lose their seniority.
However, he added, if they meet the necessary criteria they would still be considered for promotions.
Mohamad Zabidi said department heads were authorised to recall any employee who is on unpaid leave.
"If there is a pressing need, the particular employee can be asked to return to work," he said.
On the same note, employees who wished to shorten their unpaid leave and return to work would also be allowed to do so.
"They must submit their application 30 days before they decide to report back to work to be considered," he added.
Women make up more than half of the 1.2 million workforce in the civil service.