Grace Fu backs call to extend perks to all caregivers

SINGAPORE - The call from the labour movement for companies to give family-friendly benefits to all caregivers and not just parents has been backed by Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Grace Fu.

Calling it the "right direction to go", she explained that expanding these benefits to include workers who take care of ageing or sick family members, for instance, will help people stay in their jobs for "as long as possible".

It will also help "us to meet the needs of an ageing society", she added on Friday while speaking on the sidelines of her visit to the OCBC Centre to learn about the bank's work-life balance programmes.

On Thursday, the National Trades Union Congress urged for existing tripartite guidelines on workplace practices, which have detailed guidelines for pregnant employees and parents of young children, to be broadened to include other caregivers.

It also unveiled a series of criteria - from flexible work arrangements to access to family-care leave - which companies can measure themselves against to see how family-friendly they are.

OCBC, which last year topped a list of most attractive employers in the banking and financial services here, already meets some of these criteria, like having an in-house childcare centre offering discounted rates to staff.

Part of the bank's work-life balance programme also includes giving two extra days of childcare leave to employers with children aged eight to 12 years old.

Said Ms Fu: "OCBC shared with us that it is actually in its commercial interests to do so (have these family-friendly benefits) because it's a good way for it to retain and attract talents... Employees want to achieve both family and work objectives and they need employers to flexibly meet their needs."

Around half of OCBC's employees are below the age of 37 and 44 per cent of them have children below the age of 17.

OCBC Bank's head of group human resources, Ms Cynthia Tan, explained: "We want to create a working environment that helps our employees succeed in building a career with us and at the same time, enjoy a meaningful family life."

Mr Ng Pei Min, assistant vice-president of global treasury at the bank, said that pro-family measures are helpful for dads like him, who need time off work to look after family matters.

The 36-year-old, who has been working with OCBC since 2008, took two weeks of paternity leave in 2009 and 2010 after his wife, who works as a civil servant, gave birth.

He said: "It gives the reassurance that when you need help, you don't have to hesitate asking for it."

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