Every Parent’s Guide to Childcare Leave in Singapore

Last updated on November 3, 2021

mother holding her baby

In Singapore, childcare leave allows working parents to spend quality time with their children, including:

  • Attending child immunisation appointments;
  • Accompanying children on their first day of school;
  • When they are unable to make alternative childcare arrangements during school closures.

Childcare leave also helps working parents to stay home and care for their children if they fall sick.

Childcare leave is partially-paid for by the government, which helps ease the financial burden on employers when employees take childcare leave and, also, on self-employed parents who may incur income loss while taking childcare leave.

The primary purpose of childcare leave is to help working parents balance their career and childcare responsibilities with peace of mind.

Therefore, working parents should always keep themselves well-informed about:

Who is Entitled to Paid Childcare Leave and How Much? 

In Singapore, working parents of children who are Singapore citizens are eligible for:

  • 6 days of government-paid childcare leave if their youngest child is under 7 years of age; or
  • 2 days of extended government-paid childcare leave if their youngest child is between 7 and 12 years of age.

This is provided that they meet the following eligibility requirements:

  • (If they are employees) They have worked for their current employer for at least 3 months;
  • (If they are self-employed) They have engaged in work for at least 3 months, but lose income during the period of childcare leave.

Working parents are entitled to the above-numbered days of childcare leave for every 12-month period mutually agreed upon between the employer and employee. Where no such agreement exists, or if you are self-employed, this 12-month period will be according to a calendar year (i.e. 1 January to 31 December of the year).     

These entitlements apply regardless of how many children one has, and will not be increased based on that number.

Should both parents be employees of the same employer, they will each still be entitled to 6 days of childcare leave and 2 days of extended childcare leave, if applicable (see below) and given that they meet the eligibility criteria.

However, do note that a male employee is not entitled to government-paid (or unpaid) childcare leave if:     

  • He is the biological father of the child; and
  • Either he or the biological mother of the child was married to another person, or both of them were not lawfully married to each other, at the time the child was conceived (E.g., in cases of extramarital affair).

The is unless the male employee subsequently marries the biological mother of the child, in which case he will be entitled to government-paid (or unpaid) childcare leave.

Am I entitled to childcare leave if my child is not a Singapore citizen? 

Working parents of children who are non-citizens are eligible for 2 days of paid childcare leave for every 12-month period in accordance with the Employment Act, subject to them meeting the eligibility requirements mentioned above.

What if I’m not the biological parent of the child? 

For a working parent to be eligible for childcare leave, it does not matter whether the working parent’s child is his/her birth child, stepchild or adopted child. However, adoptive parents will be eligible for paid childcare leave only after the Adoption Order has been passed.

Foster parents and legal guardians do not qualify as only parents are entitled to childcare leave.

How to determine your childcare leave entitlement                

If you have neither just joined your employer nor intend to leave your company this year, you will be able to claim the full 6 or 2 days of childcare leave you are entitled to.

However, if you have worked for your employer for less than a year or intend to leave your company this year, your childcare leave will be pro-rated according to your length of employment service for that year.

If you are a new hire who has been with your employer for less than a year, your childcare leave entitlement will be as follows:

Completed months of employment service during relevant 12-month period Eligible days of childcare leave
0-2 Not eligible
3-4 2
5-6 3
7-8 4
9-10 5
11-12 6

If you are intending to leave your company this year, your childcare leave will also be pro-rated based on the number of completed months of employment service during this year of resignation or termination:

Completed months of employment service in the year of resignation or termination Eligible days of childcare leave
0-2 2

(Must have worked for at least 3 months before departure)

3-4 2
5-6 3
7-8 4
9-10 5
11-12 6

Working parents who are fixed-term contractors, temporary or part-time employees can also be entitled to childcare leave. However, their leave entitlement is subject to the number of hours that they work and computed as follows:

Average number of hours a week the part-time employee works
——————-
Average number of hours a week a similar full-time employee works
x Days of childcare leave a similar full-time employee has, based on duration of employment x Number of hours a day a similar full-time employee works

For example, a part-time worker who works an average of 4 hours a week, versus a full-time worker who works 8 hours a week, will be entitled to 4.36 hours of childcare leave (4/44 x 6 x 8). Since the minimum number of days of childcare leave entitlement is 2 days, the part-time worker will, therefore, be entitled to 2 days of childcare leave at 4 hours each day.

Extended childcare leave, however, cannot be pro-rated.

To check if you are entitled to childcare leave and how many days, you may use MOM’s childcare leave calculator.             

How Do Working Parents Apply for Childcare Leave?

Working parents who are employees are strongly encouraged to discuss their childcare leave plans with their employers early to avoid disappointment so the latter can also make alternative work arrangements. 

They will need to download and complete the Government-Paid Childcare Leave (GPCL) declaration form and submit it to their current employers, along with any other necessary supporting documents when applying for childcare leave in accordance with company procedures.

Childcare leave already claimed under previous employer(s) will be deducted from their overall yearly childcare leave entitlement.   

For self-employed parents, they should keep a log of their leave days and submit an online claim after their leave is taken via the Government-Paid Leave Portal no later than 3 months after the last day of the calendar year.

They will be reimbursed by the government for up to 3 days of paid childcare leave and/or 2 days of extended childcare leave based on their Notice of Assessment submitted to the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS).

When Can Childcare Leave Not be Used?

Childcare leave cannot be abused nor applied by working parents for personal use, or any other purpose other than for caring for their children.

Parents also cannot:

  1. Transfer or “share” childcare leave between themselves;
  2. Have any outstanding childcare leave unused within a 12-month period converted to cash or brought over to a new company;
  3. Apply for no-pay leave and childcare leave simultaneously

What Happens to Any Unused Childcare Leave? 

All unused childcare leave will lapse at the end of each agreed 12-month period and cannot be carried forward to the next year. Working parents cannot encash or claim allowance on any such unused childcare leave.

Working parents who are leaving the company are not allowed to use their childcare leave to offset any notice period for the termination of employment. Also, should childcare leave be granted to them during the notice period, the leave taken will not lengthen the notice period that has to be served.

What If I’m Denied Childcare Leave or Childcare Leave Reimbursement Despite Being Entitled to It?

For employed working parents, it is possible that an employer may not be able to grant an employee’s request for childcare leave due to work. Therefore, employees are advised to communicate their childcare leave plans with their employers early. This way, employers are given sufficient notice and leeway to accommodate any leave requests as best and as early as they can.

While childcare leave is subject to the employers’ approval, employers are legally required to grant childcare leave to a working parent who is entitled to and requests for such leave. An employer who unreasonably denies childcare leave will be fined up to $5,000 or imprisoned for a term of up to 6 months, or given both punishments.

Should employed working parents feel they have been unfairly denied childcare leave or extended childcare leave, they may contact the Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management (TADM) for mediation and advice on dispute management.

For self-employed working parents, they may file a notice of dispute in writing to the Director of the Ministry of Social and Family Development (the Director) or the Self-Employed Reimbursement Board (the Board) if their claim for childcare leave reimbursement is rejected or deemed to have failed to comply with childcare leave laws. 

Such a notice of dispute should be filed within a month from the date of dispute and, also:

  1. State the amount of reimbursement claimed by the applicant;
  2. State the grounds of dispute together with the decision of the Director or the Board, where applicable; and
  3. Be accompanied by any relevant supporting information or documents.

Alternative Care Arrangements for Children Whose Parents are Unable to Take Paid Childcare Leave

Working parents who are unable to take childcare leave to care for their children may consider seeking alternative childcare arrangements such as placing their children at day-care centres, with babysitters, domestic helpers or relatives such as the children’s grandparents.

In the event that such alternative childcare arrangements are not feasible, it will be worthwhile and meaningful for working parents and employers to explore and encourage flexible work culture and arrangements that enable them to work from home.

In this digital and information age, such flexibility and work-life support can enhance employee engagement and commitment, thereby giving businesses crucial competitive advantages.

Ideally, employers and employees should strive for greater empathy, understanding and more regular communication about their respective challenges in the workplace and at home so they can seek ways to better support each other.

However, if one gets caught in a dispute with their employer over childcare leave, this can leave both the employer and employee in an exceptionally stressful situation.

Thankfully, when in doubt, there are also experienced employment lawyers on hand to advise the relevant parties on the best course of action to take.

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