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Employers can seek claims from Government for second week of paternity leave: Parliament

From July onwards, companies can seek reimbursement from the Government for employees whose second week of paternity leave was taken from 24 August last year.

This is part of the Child Development Co-savings Act which was amended in Parliament on 9 May.

Employers whose employees took this second week of paternity leave can seek claims from the Government, and eligible self-employed persons can also seek claims amounting to the loss of income from the additional week of paternity leave taken.

Eligible fathers include those who have taken the leave from 24 August last year and fathers who have adopted a child where the application to adopt or the dependant’s pass was issued on or after 1 January 2015.

The amount of the claim, however, is limited to S$2,500.

The voluntary second week of paternity leave was announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in his National Day Rally speech on 23 August last year.

Currently, only one week of leave is compulsory. Fathers with children born or adopted on or after 1 January last year can opt to take the second week off as well.

The Act will be amended again later this year to make the second week of paternity leave compulsory from 1 January 2017 onwards.

Member of Parliament (MP) of Nee Soon GRC and new father Louis Ng spoke in Parliament on 9 May, encouraging more fathers to play a more active role in parenting. He hoped that not only would employers offer paternity leave, but the fathers would opt to take up the leave as well.

According to the Ministry of Social and Family Development, in 2013 and 2014, only 28 per cent and 36 per cent of fathers took up the government-paid paternity leave respectively. In 2015, 40 per cent opted to take the leave.

Children of unwed parents were also included in the amended Act, where they were made eligible for the Child Development Account (CDA) scheme in which the Government matches the deposits parents make into a savings account by up to S$6,000.

Under the amended Act, children of unwed parents born from September onwards are also made eligible for the new S$3,000 CDA First Step grant, which will be deposited into the child’s account regardless of whether or not the parents had made any prior deposits.

Both Mr Ng and Non-Constituency MP Daniel Goh expressed their support for the amendment when speaking in Parliament.

Dr Goh called for further measures to be taken to support new unwed parents, such as by extending the Baby Bonus cash gift of S$6,000 to children of such parents and by reviewing housing laws as currently, unwed parents would have to wait until age 35 to buy a HDB flat.

In response, Minister of Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin acknowledged that despite some differentiation between wed and unwed parents, children of unwed parents still received support in numerous areas such as education and healthcare.

Nevertheless, he added that “while we do what we can for the children, we do think that we must continue to try to encourage and support parenthood within the confines of marriage.”