Can HR reject childcare leave requests?

Singapore's Ministry of Manpower has seen cases of ‘under-provision’ of the employee entitlement

Can HR reject childcare leave requests?

In the past five years, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) handled merely 15 cases where childcare leave was either not provided or under-provided in an employee’s contract.

In all 15 cases, MOM required the employers to rectify their childcare leave policies to comply with the law and took enforcement action against them.

During the same period, MOM and TAFEP did not receive any cases where childcare leave requests were “unreasonably rejected”, said Minister Josephine Teo.

“The main reason for employers not having fulfilled their statutory obligations was a lack of awareness of employees’ entitlements,” Teo said.

“The vast majority of employers and employees have been able to work out mutually agreeable arrangements for the taking of childcare leave.”

Childcare leave is an entitlement for employees protected under the Employment Act. But can employers legally deny any requests.

MOM acknowledged that there may be instances when you’re unable to grant the leave request due to work. To help avoid any issues, MOM encourages employees to apply for the leave “as early as possible” so that employers can better accommodate staff.

Employers, however, should grant childcare leave, especially if they concern “childcare matters that can’t be postponed, like immunisations and school registration”.

“Paid childcare leave…helps working parents spend time with their young children and better balance their work and family commitments,” MOM said. “Happy employees are productive employees.

“It’s good practice for employers to help employees achieve a good work-life balance by encouraging and allowing them to fulfil their family commitments.”

READ MORE: Emergency leave benefit in Singapore: A guide

Childcare leave entitlements
According to local labour laws, working parents of Singapore citizen children are entitled to six days of paid childcare leave per year. This means each working parent gets six days each annually, pending eligibility.

Parents of non-citizens can get two days of childcare leave a year in accordance with the Employment Act.

Employees are eligible for government-paid childcare leave if:

  • Their child is below seven years old
  • Their child is a Singapore citizen
  • For employees: They’ve served the company for at least three continuous months
  • For self-employed: They’ve worked for at least three continuous months and have lost income during the childcare leave period

The leave applies to working parents regardless of the number of children they have. Total childcare leave is capped at 42 days for each parent.

MOM added that employees cannot “carry forward” childcare leave to the next year – the benefit must be used within the same year.

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