Guide to Maternity Leave for Expecting Mothers in Singapore

Last updated on November 3, 2021

expecting mother thinking of her child

Are you on your journey to motherhood? In Singapore, we have laws that provide for maternity leave for expecting mothers.

Maternity leave is essential in helping working mothers spend time with their newborns while recovering from pregnancy and childbirth, and in ensuring that mothers can remain employed.

This article will aim to explain Singapore’s maternity leave laws with regard to maternity leave entitlement, maternity pay as well as employer-employee disputes and obligations during maternity leave.

Who is Entitled to Paid Maternity Leave?

Under the Employment Act (EA)

All expecting mothers (both locals and foreigners) who are covered under the EA are entitled to paid maternity leave.

Examples of expecting mothers who will not qualify for maternity leave under the EA include:

  • Managers or executives who earn more than $4,500 basic salary per month;
  • Seafarers;
  • Domestic workers; or
  • Civil servants or statutory board employees.

Under the Child Development Co-Savings Act (CDCA)

Mothers who may not qualify under the EA may be covered under the CDCA, which has fewer conditions to be satisfied in order to be eligible for paid maternity leave.

The CDCA grants maternity leave if:

  • The mother’s:
    • Birth of the child occurs;
    • Estimated delivery date is on or after 1 January 2017; or
    • Estimated delivery date is after 1 November 2021 in the case of a stillborn child;
  • The mother’s child is a Singapore citizen or, would have been a Singapore citizen in the case of a stillborn child; and
  • The mother has been employed or self-employed for at least 3 months immediately before the child’s birth.

The CDCA defines a “self-employed woman” as being a person who:

“engages in or carries on any trade, business, profession or vocation other than employment under a contract of service”.

Under the Government-Paid Maternity Leave (GPML) scheme

The Government-Paid Maternity Leave (GPML) scheme is provided in accordance with the CDCA. The same conditions for maternity leave under the CDCA apply, except that the GPML also applies to unwed mothers.

Under the Government-Paid Maternity Benefit (GPMB) scheme

The Government-Paid Maternity Benefit (GPMB) scheme applies to expecting mothers who do not qualify for GPML. Such expecting mothers could include those who have not worked for an employer for at least 3 months prior to the child’s birth, or those in short-term employment.

The GPMB scheme will cover expecting mothers who have been employed for at least 3 months within the 12 months preceding their child’s birth.

Maternity Leave

How many weeks of maternity leave am I entitled to?

Maternity leave in Singapore is inclusive of non-working days, rest days and public holidays.

Under the EA

An expecting mother who qualifies for maternity leave under the EA is entitled to 12 weeks of maternity leave.

Under the CDCA and GPML

A mother who is covered by the CDCA and GPML is entitled to 16 weeks of maternity leave.

When can I start maternity leave?

By default, a mother may start the maternity leave 4 weeks before the scheduled date of delivery and continue the 8 weeks (for a 12-week maternity leave) or 12 weeks (for a 16-week maternity leave) from the scheduled date of delivery.

Alternatively, if the employer agrees, a mother can start the first consecutive 8 weeks of maternity leave any time in the 4 weeks before delivery.

The last 4 or 8 weeks of maternity leave (for 12-week and 16-week leave entitlements respectively) may be flexibly taken any time within a year of the child’s birth.

This flexible leave of 4 or 8 weeks can be calculated as follows:

  • For 12 weeks of maternity leave, 4 weeks x the number of working days per week. This will be capped at 24 working days.
  • For 16 weeks of maternity leave, 8 weeks x the number of working days per week, capped at 48 working days.

Can my husband use my maternity leave?

A mother may choose to share a maximum of 4 weeks of her maternity leave with her working husband and increase her husband’s 2-week paternity leave accordingly.

Maternity Pay

How many weeks of maternity leave will I be paid for?

Under the EA

Under the EA, if a mother worked for her employer for at least 3 months before the delivery and has less than 2 children (excluding twins/triplets) at the time of delivery, her employer will pay her 8 weeks of her usual monthly salary.

However, if she does not give her employer at least a week of notice before going on maternity leave (and does not have a good reason for not giving such notice), she is only entitled to receive half the payment.

The last 4 weeks of maternity leave would be unpaid unless provided for in her employment contract.

What if my employer asks me to work during my maternity leave?

Under the EA, an employer is prohibited from asking a mother to work in the first 4 weeks of her child’s birth (including a stillborn child).

If she works on any day during the remaining 8 weeks of her maternity leave, she is entitled to that day’s salary, or to claim another day of leave, in addition to her maternity pay.

Under the CDCA and GMPL

If a mother is covered by the CDCA or GPML, she is entitled to be paid her monthly salary by her employer for all 16 weeks of her maternity leave.

The mother’s employer may claim reimbursement from the government for the last 8 weeks of her first and second births, and for the entire 16 weeks of her third or subsequent births.

Under the Government-Paid Maternity Benefit (GPMB) scheme

Under the GPMB scheme, for the first and second births, a mother will be paid for 8 weeks of her maternity leave. While, for the third and subsequent births, a mother will be paid for all 16 weeks of her maternity leave.

Special Situations of Maternity Leave Entitlement

The maternity leave entitlements may differ in special situations such as:

  • The delivering of twins or triplets will be treated as a single delivery and there are no double/triple maternity benefits;
  • Where if the child was born prematurely, the mother is entitled to 16 weeks of maternity leave from the child’s date of birth or from a date agreed with her employer;
  • If the child is stillborn, the mother is eligible for the full maternity leave;
  • Where a mother suffers a miscarriage or undergoes an abortion, she is not eligible for maternity leave and may instead take sick paid leave; and
  • If a mother falls sick during her maternity leave, she cannot take paid sick leave.

Adoption leave

Under the CDCA, a female employee is entitled to 12 weeks of adoption leave starting from the following eligible dates:

  • Date of filing of the court application, if the adopted child is a Singapore citizen; or
  • Date of when receiving the in-principle approval for a dependant’s pass, if the adopted child is a foreigner.

The mother can only start taking adoption leave after her eligibility date, but must finish it before the child’s first birthday.

The eligibility criteria for adoption leave for female employees or self-employed women include the following conditions:

  • The female employee has worked for her employer, or is self-employed, for at least 3 months before the eligible date;
  • On the eligible date, the child is below 12 months old;
  • Where the child is a foreigner and a dependant’s pass has been issued for the child:
    • The female employee or self-employed woman must be a Singapore citizen; or
    • Either of the adoptive parents must be a Singapore citizen; and
  • The female employee or self-employed woman is not the biological mother of the child.

The adoption order must be passed within 1 year from the eligible date. 

The mother’s employer may claim reimbursement from the government:

  • For the last 8 weeks of the mother’s first and second adoption application or issuance of dependant’s pass for the child; or
  • For the entire 12 weeks of the mother’s third and fourth adoption application or issuance of dependant’s pass for the child.

Maternity Leave Disputes

Can my employer dismiss me because I’m on maternity leave?

It is an offence for an employer to dismiss an employee who is on maternity leave.

If an employer dismisses an expecting mother within 6 months from the date of estimated delivery (as certified by a medical practitioner) or the date of delivery itself, without sufficient cause, the employer is liable to pay her the maternity benefits that she would have been entitled to.

The same applies if an employer has no choice but to retrench an expecting mother within 3 months from the date of estimated delivery or the date of her confinement – the employer will still have to pay her the maternity benefits.

What should I do if I’m unfairly dismissed (or face some other dispute) during my maternity leave?

If there is a dispute over her maternity leave, the mother is encouraged to engage in discussions with her employer to try and resolve these disputes internally.

If these discussions fail, a mother who is covered by the EA and the CDCA has the following avenues:

  • File a mediation claim with the Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management for unfair dismissal.
  • Seek the union’s help if she is a member of a trade union.
  • Seek legal help.

Employer-Employee Obligations during Maternity Leave

Am I allowed to work for another employer during my maternity leave?

A mother is not allowed to work for another employer during her maternity leave. If she does so, her maternity benefits will be forfeited, and she may be dismissed.

What if my employment contract is terminated during my maternity leave?

According to the EA and the CDCA, a female employee whose contract of service is terminated (whether because she resigns or has been dismissed from service) during her maternity leave period will have the balance of her maternity leave entitlement forfeited.

Accordingly, she would be in the same position as any other employee (not on maternity leave), and subject to the regular resignation or termination clauses under the EA or her employment contract.

Penalties for errant employers

Under the EA, if the Minister for Manpower is satisfied that an employee was dismissed without sufficient cause, he may direct the employer to:

  • Reinstate the employee in her job and pay her an amount that she would have earned if she had not been dismissed; or
  • Pay her a compensation that the Minister considers is fair.

The importance of maternity leave in Singapore is thus seen from the provisions made for expecting mothers. The legislature and government facilitate a work culture and environment that does not prejudice mothers but instead support them in their journey to motherhood.

For more information, please visit the Ministry of Manpower’s website.

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