MP Louis Ng, a Singapore animal welfare activist who was elected MP in 2015, has been advocating for different groups of workers and speaking his mind on several controversial issues, earning him the title “Maverick Politician“.
Recently he asked the government for more parent-care leave and annual leave, but was turned down.
This is an excerpt from his Facebook post:
I fought hard for parent-care leave and more annual leave for everyone but the reply was “no”.
Government wants to focus on Flexible Work Arrangements (FWA). I support FWA but we need to remember that a lot of workers won’t have FWA. Especially NOT for the frontline workers we have been paying tribute to in the past few weeks.
It’s very hard for nurses to have FWA. Same for teachers, preschool teachers, security guards, cleaners, the list goes on.
Thats why I’ve said this is not a zero sum game. We can have FWA for some and legislate parent-care and more childcare leave for everyone.
For annual leave, we must remember that the people getting the minimum of only 7 days of annual leaves are probably our lowest income workers who do the most backbreaking work.
They too need rest like all of us and we have to increase the minimum amount of annual leave for them.
This group of workers do not have parent-care leave, childcare sick leave, enough annual leave and FWA.
Who wouldn’t want more parent-care leave and annual leave for workers?
Companies, for one, especially those which are struggling amidst the Covid-19 crisis and economic downturn, may perceive workers who are eligible for extra parent-care leave and annual leave as liabilities to their balance sheets.
This is because the paid absence of a worker adds to the manpower costs without corresponding work done.
On top of this, employing Singaporean workers come with a host of other considerations that bosses need to accommodate (that they don’t have to bother when they hire foreign workers), such as:
- leave for reservist training
- CPF employer contributions
- 16 weeks of paid maternity leave
- 2 weeks of paid paternity leave
- 6 days of childcare leave
- 2 days of extended childcare leave
As it is, many companies are still considering whether to keep local workers and get 8% savings from the Jobs Support Scheme (which will offset 8% of the wages of every employee who is a Singaporean or permanent resident for three months, up to a monthly cap of $3,600).
Or lay off the workers and save 100% of their salaries to keep the company afloat.
I think the government knows this, that’s why they decided to focus on FWA first and other measures to find a balance so that workers can keep their jobs.
What worker issues should we tackle before asking for more parent-care and annual leave?
First, let’s focus on helping local workers keep their jobs, or find new jobs if they lose their jobs.
Without a job, there is no point asking for more leave.
Second, we need to reduce discrimination of Singaporeans when companies favour foreign talents, and helping Singaporeans be more attractive to hire than foreigners (from companies’ perspectives).
Without fair job opportunities for locals, there is no point asking for more leave.
Third, how can we make workplaces more empathetic and effective, so that more workers (even teachers, security officers, cleaners) feel safe enough and have the option to apply for FWA, parent-care or childcare leave without affecting business continuity?
Without a positive and effective working environment, there is no point asking for more leave.
Fourth, can we address the root causes of long working hours, salary concerns and unsupportive working cultures with job redesign, higher wages, shorter shifts, better career paths, union representation, nation-wide advocacy for positive working environments, timely and effective training for higher productivity, and other measures? So that our workers feel they are safe and secure enough to spend more time with their families without losing their jobs?
Without a sense of job security, there is no point asking for more leave.
It’s not that I don’t support having more employee benefits. But what’s the point of having more when it will cost me my job (especially in this uncertain economic climate) and I cannot exercise these benefits for fear of disapproval from my employer?
I sincerely look forward to the arrival of the day we can have our cake and eat it too.
Featured image from CNA.
Editing is my work.