- What lies beyond the career vs. motherhood dilemma?
- Can there be a win-win situation to the six months maternity leave policy?
Half a year ago, when my husband and I first found out the pregnancy of our second child, the six months maternity leave debate was the hot topic in Singapore.
Having gone through my first confinement, the option of maternity extension for my second pregnancy is a welcoming thought, albeit a seemingly far-fetched one for this country.
Increasingly, women of my generation are returning to the workforce right after their maternity leave.
In reality, the costs of living and of bringing up a child (let alone two!) in Singapore is such that having two income holders becomes a necessity for a comfortable future.
No doubt, many women do return to work for various other reasons, but given the option, I’m sure many would appreciate the longer timeframe to recuperate.
In fact, based on a poll conducted by JobsCentral, 44% of respondents feel that a maternity period of six months is just right.
Understandably, the SNEF’s concerns of productivity loss and operational disruptions must be taken into account; however, Singapore’s declining fertility rate presents a potentially bigger issue to address.
Just an Act
On a personal level, my concern with a longer maternity policy lies with the state of my career as well as how I’m able to split my time fairly to bond with my newborn.
On top of the physical recovery (and mentally for some mothers), I do worry about the impact of my long absence from work. Many changes can happen in the short span of four months, let alone half a year?
The Employment Act states that employers are prohibited from dismissing an employee who is on maternity leave, but my concerns transcend beyond what the Act can dictate. Will my absence and potentially future absence (from having more children) rule me out from a promotion? Will I be replaced by someone who’s 100% committed to the job because I’ve made a choice to have a family?
Women can have it all; but will it be a case of jack of all trades and master of none? Would it have been better to choose one of either far end of the pole – to devote yourself to a career or to motherhood?
Unfortunately, the Act cannot give you an answer to that, not when there’s a national crisis of declining fertility rate.
Flexibility may be the key to reduce the impact of productivity loss
The current sixteen weeks of fully-paid maternity leave allow an employee to take the last eight weeks of maternity leave flexibly over a 12-month period from the child’s birth.
If Singapore entertains the possibility of a six-month (24-weeks) maternity leave, would spreading the additional two months across a fixed working period help alleviate concerns of productivity loss?
Allowing mothers to do a three-day work week for a longer period of time will not only ensure that first and foremost they’re giving ample time to their newborn, but also keeps them active in the workforce!
Working from home has also been a valid option practiced by some companies to provide flexibility to new mothers who are still very much involved at work.
Now, more than ever, as different sides weigh in on their own interests, mothers or mothers-to-be need to have the assurance of relevance in the workforce despite pursuing life choices.
With my second child on the way, I would like to know that my experience and commitment still counts when in consideration for a leadership role.