Modern-day countries no longer only offer maternity leave. Singapore and a number of other forward-thinking countries around the world have introduced new laws allowing fathers paid paternity leave after the birth of a son or daughter.
In Singapore, these laws came into effect on 1 January 2017, aiming to both improve gender equality in workplaces throughout Singapore, and to help encourage young couples to have children. It also seeks to show how Singapore is an extremely family-friendly place to work and raise a family.
There are a number of eligibility criteria and other things you will need to know if you’re looking to apply for paternity leave in Singapore.
Read our in-depth guide to why it’s so important to take this time off as a new father, and what you can expect from government paid paternity leave in Singapore. We also cover how you can apply, and other options for paid and unpaid childcare leave that you can take in addition to your parental leave.
The importance of father-baby bonding time
Paternity leave is a newer concept, but a vital one considering the importance of a dad enjoying time off with his new baby.
It’s not uncommon for new fathers to feel left out of the special bond that develops almost instantly between the mother and the baby, and this is exacerbated when fathers must immediately return to work, and miss out on those very early days of a baby’s life. Additional time off at the beginning means the family can bond together from day one.
It can also be a huge help for the father to be around during the first couple of weeks, as mothers often need downtime to rest and recover after giving birth. In this way, a dad taking time off work can be vital for that support at home.
Paid paternity leave
Since 1 January 2017, working fathers have been entitled to two weeks of paid paternity leave, funded by the government. This is known as Government-Paid Paternity Leave (GPPL).
To be eligible, your child must be a Singaporean citizen – however, your wife does not need to be a citizen for you to take this leave. If your baby does not have citizenship at birth, you have 12 months to obtain citizenship for them and still claim paid parental leave.
You must also be married to the child’s mother from the time of conception until birth. For adoptive fathers, this marriage clause does not apply.
You must also have worked at your place of employment for a continuous period of at least three months before the birth of your child. If you are self-employed, you must have been working continuously for at least three months before the birth, AND to have lost income during the paternity leave period.
Note that this two weeks would typically mean 10 days for the standard five-day working week, but if you typically work six days a week, you would get 12 days of paid leave. This is capped at six days per week.
It’s also important to note that your paternity leave claim is capped at $2,500. This includes Central Provident Fund contributions, if this applies to you.
Paid paternal leave arrangements
Working fathers get, by default, two continuous weeks of paid leave at any time within the first 16 weeks after the birth of the child.
However, if decided by mutual agreement between the worker and the employer, these two continuous weeks can be taken at any time within the first 12 months after the birth of the child.
It’s best to speak with your employer as soon as possible to either let them know that you will be taking the default leave, or to see if they are open to you using your paid leave on a more flexible basis.
You can also check with your employer if the company offers any additional paid time off or flexible working arrangements designed for new parents, as some organisations now offer these stipulations in their contracts to help assist new mothers and fathers.
Singaporean companies that offer more
All companies in Singapore must abide by these new laws, but some businesses are taking it a step further with additional leave or benefits.
One example is insurance company Prudential Singapore, which offers three weeks of paid leave for new fathers. The company also backdated the policy to before this announcement, ensuring all new fathers could benefit from the change.
Another forward-thinking example is IKEA, which announced in 2017 that it would offer a full four weeks of paternity leave to new fathers throughout South East Asia. This policy affected 14 dads in Singapore within the first nine months of the announcement.
Additionally, employees in Singapore’s Facebook offices can benefit from the social media’s worldwide policy of a full four months of paid parental leave, regardless of gender.
Shared parental leave
Another option for new fathers is shared parental leave. In this case, working fathers can apply for up to four weeks of the mother’s 16 weeks Government-Paid Maternity Leave.
Again, your child must be a Singaporean citizen, you must be married to the mother, the mother must qualify for the Government-Paid Maternity Leave, and she also must consent to the shared leave. Additionally, this leave is also capped at $2,500 per week.
Any shared leave you take as a father is on top of your existing paternal leave, meaning that new fathers can claim as much as six weeks of paid parental leave in total after the birth of their child. It’s also important to note that this leave can only be taken in week-long blocks, meaning you cannot take just a few days or just over a week – it must be one, two, three, or four weeks off in full.
In this scenario, shared parental leave must be taken within the first 12 months of the baby’s birth. By default, fathers will take this time in a single continuous stretch, but they can speak with their employer to negotiate a way of breaking up this leave in a way that makes more sense for the parents and the employer.
How to apply for paternal leave in Singapore
If you wish to apply for, or learn more about, paid paternal or shared leave in Singapore, you have a number of options.
You can visit the government Pro Family Leave website. This site is where you can submit your application, but also check its status, view the time you have taken off, and more.
Paid childcare leave
Parents working in Singapore should also remember that paid time off doesn’t end after your child is out of infancy. There is an option for paid childcare leave that allows working parents of Singaporean citizen children to take six days of paid time off per year. This applies every year until the child turns seven, however, you may be able to apply for additional leave for children aged seven to 12.
To be eligible, the child must be a citizen under the age of seven, and the parents must have worked for their employers (or been self-employed) for at least three months continuously.
Note that these days cannot be ‘saved up’, and must be used that year.
Not all of the paid childcare leave is covered by the government. To cover the six days, the first three days off are paid by your employer, and the remaining three are paid for by the government. Each day is capped at $500.
Paid childcare leave can be used within the same year as paid paternal leave.
Unpaid infant care leave
An additional option that may help some parents is unpaid infant care leave. In this scenario, working parents are able to take up to six days off to care for their infant, however, this leave is unpaid. The benefit is that parents can use this leave to spend more time with their baby without being reprimanded or fired from work for missed days.
To be eligible, your child must be under two years of age and a Singaporean citizen. You as a parent must also have worked for your employer for a continuous period of at least three months.
Unpaid childcare leave can also be used within the same year as paid childcare leave and paid paternal leave.