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Josephine Teo (Photo: Bloomberg)

More support needed for working mothers: Josephine Teo

Better support from both home and work is still needed for young mothers, said Senior Minister of State (Prime Minister’s Office) and overseer of the National Population and Talent Division Josephine Teo. She noted that four out of five mothers return to work after having children.

Speaking to reporters at the sidelines of a mass baby-weaning parenting event involving 180 mothers on Mother’s Day, Mrs Teo called for more help to be given to young mothers who return to the workforce, especially for those working for small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

These mothers aged between 25 and 39 years old have to meet both family and work commitments after returning to work. Mrs Teo stated that help can come from fathers, employers, families and co-workers.

From the workplace, she gave the example of alternative work arrangements that companies could allow for new parents to enable them to better care for their children. However, this also means that other colleagues have to chip in, she added.

“You need a workplace culture that is mutually supportive,” said Mrs Teo. “This time round when someone has a child, you help her. Next time round, someone else has a different need, for example looking after their parents, then you have to chip in to help them,” she said.

Mrs Teo noted that while the Government has received feedback from SMEs indicating an understanding of the need to support new, young mothers, many SMEs were unsure of how to go about such a task.

“Very often, they don’t know how to get started. They think that supporting parents could be a very complicated affair,” said Mrs Teo.

Contrary to the general opinion of many SMEs, offering support to young mothers often does not require the company to invest in a large amount of resources.

Instead, support can be as simple as appointing co-workers to cover each others’ duties when needed, such as when a parent has to take emergency leave, said Mrs Teo. Knowing who would cover their duties in their absence would make it easier for parents to respond to situations at home.

The Government aims to promote greater understanding of how employers, especially SMEs, can contribute to giving support to working parents.

Mrs Teo noted that various measures announced during the Budget debate earlier this year, such as more government-paid paternity leave, were a step in the right direction. Nevertheless, she felt that together with new policies, Singapore still has to be “a society that celebrates parenthood.”

Ms Evelyn Kwek, managing director of Great Place To Work Institute, also echoed Mrs Teo’s sentiments and called for human resource policies to be better integrated as currently, working parents are expected to “compartmentalise the different roles they play.”

“Beyond putting in place work-life policies, it is important there be a culture of respect for the individual and a culture that allows mums to be able to utilise these policies,” Ms Kuek said. She noted that mothers had to be understanding of the different work-life needs faced by other colleagues as well.

“Many families in Singapore face multi-faceted challenges, and juggling the responsibilities of work with the duties of raising a family are among the difficulties many parents in Singapore face,” council chairman of Families for Life Mr Ching Wei Hong said.