Aug 22, 2014

Discovering what works best for Parents at Work

Working parents are like jugglers in a circus: They juggle their children’s school schedules and activities while balancing their own work deadlines, attending meetings, and sneaking in the occasional toilet break.

Given this, it is great to know that some companies in Singapore are going the extra mile to make parents who work for them feel just a bit more comfortable and appreciated.

Awarding the Best Companies for Mums Awards

Last month, a total of 69 companies and individuals were acknowledged at the Best Companies for Mums Awards in various categories - Best Companies for Mums, Most Enabling Companies for Dads, Most Supportive Colleagues and Most Supportive Supervisors. Organised by the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) Women's Development Secretariat (WDS) and Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP), the awards recognise companies and individuals for their exceptional efforts in making flexible work arrangements (FWAs) work for the company and the employees, as well as highlight the different ways that companies can help their employees achieve better work-life harmony.

One recipient of the Best Companies for Mums Award is KPMG Singapore, whose flexible work schemes apply equally to all professional staff. These include compressed work schedules, flexi-time, job sharing, part-time arrangements, telecommuting and flexible work contracts to meet with each individual employee’s needs.

In addition, they offer initiatives such as a focus group called Mums & Pops @KPMG. Focused on understanding the needs of working parents in the firm, its objective is to champion suitable ideas to promote work-life balance by organising various family-based activities and events for parents and children in the firm such as family day outings, Christmas parties, Motivational talks for parents, and newborn packages for new parents.

Most Enabling Companies for Dads Awards

I am also heartened by the introduction of the Most Enabling Companies for Dads Awards this year as more than ever, many Dads are increasingly becoming more involved in their kids' everyday lives. Absolute Kinetics Consultancy Pte Ltd is one such awardee and here is what one of its employees, Mike Tan has to say:

I have two lovely daughters with me. My elder daughter is 2 years old and younger daughter is just 2 months old. My employer, Absolute Kinetics Consultancy Pte Ltd has been very supportive to working parents with kids. Parents like me have 3 days of Enhanced Paternity Leave (extra 1 day on top of statutory requirements), which I have benefited on 23 January 2014 (Thursday) when my wife delivered our second daughter-newborn at KK Women Hospital. It gave me precious moments to take good care of my wife and our newborn as the due date of delivery should be one week later. My employer allow me to take that urgent leave as paternity leave even with my busy work schedule as planned. Furthermore, my employer also allowed me to enjoy half day leave of First Day of School Children Leave for my daughter's First Day at childcare centre.

I am glad that my employer has been very supportive to working parents with children and allow employee like me to manage my works and family. By gaining insight into a perception that workplace culture supported with flexible work arrangements would allow employees to further enhance their ability to balance career and family.

Creating the Right Culture

At the end of the day, it is one thing to put flexible work policies in place, but a company also has to create a culture that values a healthy work-life balance and makes working moms and dads feel comfortable taking time to care for their kids.

  • Focus on the family: Encourage flexible work arrangements, and offer compassionate leave for those urgent times in need.
  • Free the stigma: As long as employees are producing results, they should be trusted to manage their time. Encourage employees to use their flextime so working parents do not feel guilty taking the afternoon off to volunteer at school or take their children to doctors’ appointments.
  • Provide employee assistance programs: Include in-house childcare services, and personal finance resources.
  • Keep it inclusive: Make an effort to create perks and resources for employees who are not eligible to use maternity leave or other parental benefits so as not to breed resentment.

Offering parent-friendly perks does not just benefit employees and their families. There is a slew of evidence to suggest that the support and flexibility given by employers can play an important part in helping to attract and retain talent.

NTUC Rolls Out $500,000 U Flex Family-Friendly Grant 

And it is with this in mind that NTUC had rolled out the U Flex Family-Friendly Grant worth a total of S$500,000, with funding support from the Government. This grant would see 50 companies given S$10,000 each to encourage them to put in place a more family-friendly workplace environment by offering other forms of support, such as Family Care Leave (FCL) for family members who are dependents, or Family Support Schemes (FSS) such as childcare or elderly care subsidies, or the provision of breastfeeding spaces. Firms can apply for the grant from Aug 1.

For companies, cultivating a family-friendly culture can be extremely rewarding and can go a long way in retaining employees. When companies acknowledge the importance of their employees’ personal lives, they feel valued and understood. And knowing that the company supports their family keeps them productive and focused on giving their best effort while they are at work.


At a Glance: NTUC's $500,000 U Flex Family-Friendly Grant
The Labour Movement has introduced the U Flex Family-Friendly Grant to encourage more employers to implement family-friendly workplace practices. Companies can apply for the grant to defray the cost of implementing initiatives to help working parents and caregivers manage responsibilities both at work  and at home.

This is part of NTUC's commitment to work-life harmony. The four compnents of such family-friendly initiatives would include: (1) flexible work arrangements, (2) family-care leave schemes, (3) family support schemes and facilities, and (4) career progression pathways for workers on flexible work arrangements.

The grant will be managed by NTUC's U Family and NTUC Women's Development Secretariat (WDS).

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