Flexible work arrangements main way to support working mothers: Josephine Teo

Flexible work arrangements main way to support working mothers: Josephine Teo

Singapore has one of the highest rates of gestational diabetes globally. (Photo: REUTERS/Regis Duvignau)

SINGAPORE: Over 1,000 companies have signed up for the Work-Life Grant which provides funding and incentives for companies to offer flexible work arrangements for employees, said Second Minister for Manpower Josephine Teo in Parliament on Tuesday (Oct 3).

Ms Teo, who is also Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, said that implementing such flexible work arrangements is one main way to support working mothers during pregnancy and parenthood. Under the Work-Life Grant, companies can get up to S$160,000 over four years, she said.

Ms Teo was responding to a question from MP for Nee Soon GRC Louis Ng on whether MOM will consider setting up a grant that companies can apply for to partially offset their cost of hiring one temporary staff member for each female employee entering their second trimester of pregnancy until their employee's child turns two years old.

According to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) website, the aim of the grant is to help employees better manage work and family responsibilities, and enhance the pro-family environment in Singapore. Ms Teo said that the Work-Life Grant is intentionally broad. 

“There are very many needs of companies that we cannot predict in advance, and we have to leave it to the companies to specify and design interventions that work for them,” she said.

She said companies can put up a proposal and MOM will take a look, you put up a proposal, and would be able to support it if it “makes sense” according to what the company is hoping to achieve.

She brought up two companies she encountered recently who found solutions to deal with their employees being pregnant.

At a well-known food services company, a term-contract employee was hired in order to relieve some of the pregnant employee’s responsibilities, while an accounting and corporate secretarial services firm, using the Work-Life Grant, invested in technology to allow clients to see and discuss projects with employees working from home.

Mr Ng asked if more could be done to support working mothers before and after their maternity leave. He said that he was speaking on behalf of a woman who was discriminated against because she was pregnant, and asked if a study could be conducted to find out about such discrimination on the ground.

Ms Teo said that if there is a party interested in getting involved in a study, MOM is “happy to work with this party to see how we can support it”.

Source: CNA/ja