What are HR’s legal obligations for childcare leave?

When can employees take childcare leave? Can you refuse? And how much do you have to pay?

What are HR’s legal obligations for childcare leave?
HRD talked with Shaun Lee and Justin Kwek of JWS Asia Law to find out how childcare leave works from an HR perspective.
“An employee will be entitled to take childcare leave if he or she has at least one child under the age of seven and has worked for the company for not less than three months,” they said.
If the child is a Singapore citizen, parents are entitled to six days of paid childcare leave per year. If the child is not a citizen, only two days of leave are offered.
Both the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSFD) expect employees to follow their firm’s HR policies when applying for paid childcare leave, Lee and Kwek said.
“Employees and employers are expected to mutually agree as to when such leave is to be taken. If a company’s leave policy prescribes the circumstances in which childcare leave may be taken and the procedures to be followed, employees should adhere to that policy.”
Additionally, HR will need to obtain a declaration of childcare leave eligibility from the employee. This could be Form GPCL 1 supplied by the government or the employer’s equivalent, they said.
An employer can refuse an employee’s request for childcare leave as long as it has reasonable cause, Lee and Kwek added. This can include if the worker has anything urgent to complete on those days.
“MOM and the MSFD expect employees to discuss the taking of childcare leave with their employers and for parties to mutually agree on a suitable time to take such leave.”
However, if the employee wishes to take leave for matters which cannot be postponed – such as vaccinations or school registration – both ministries “strongly encourage” employers to grant the leave, Lee and Kwek added.
Employers should also note that the unreasonable refusal to grant childcare leave could give rise to criminal liability, they said.
“The Employment Act as well as the Child Development Co-Savings Act both make it a criminal offence for an employee who fails, without reasonable cause, to grant childcare leave to an employee who is entitled to and requests for such leave.”
When determining pay for childcare leave, this is calculated on the employee’s gross rate of pay for each day they take off.
“It would be identical to how much that employee would be paid if he or she took annual leave instead,” they said.
For the first three days of leave, the employer must cover the employee’s full salary. For each subsequent day, legislation requires employers to pay up to $500 including CPF contributions for each day of leave taken.
“The employer can subsequently claim reimbursement of up to $500 from the Singapore government for those subsequent fourth to sixth day of childcare leave taken by the employee,” Lee and Kwek said.
“This reimbursement should be sought within three months from when the employee has used his or her childcare leave entitlement for the year.”
Related stories:
Government announces three key parental leave changes
Reducing re-entry anxiety: how HR can help new parents
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