2nd week of dads' leave may become mandatory later

The newly announced extra week of paternity leave is voluntary for now, but may be made mandatory in a few years' time.

This will give companies struggling to cope with the labour crunch and economic restructuring more time to adjust, said Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Grace Fu, who oversees population issues.

Before making it mandatory, the Government "will discuss it first with employers and unions", she added.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced on Sunday at the National Day Rally that paternity leave will be doubled to two weeks, and backdated to take effect at the start of this year.

The Government will pay for the extra week of leave, PM Lee added.

Yesterday, Ms Fu said employers can apply for reimbursement from the Government from the middle of next year, capped at $2,500 per week.

The Government is encouraging bigger companies to take the lead in offering the extra week, and the public service has come on board.

The Public Service Division, Singapore's largest employer with 141,000 workers, said yesterday it recognises a father's role in caring for and raising children, and would take the lead in implementing the new leave.

The aim is to "set the tone in the employment market", Ms Fu said.

The paternity leave can be taken by default as a two-week block within 16 weeks of the child's birth.

Alternatively, it can be taken any time within a year of the child's birth if agreed on between the employee and employer.

Working fathers are eligible for the extra paternity leave if their employer voluntarily gives the leave, and if they worked continuously for at least three months before the child was born.

They must also be married to the child's mother, and the child must be a Singapore citizen.

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