Maternity Leave: Understanding The Rights Of A Pregnant Employee In Singapore

This article was first published on DollarsAndSense.sg.

It’s important to differentiate between rights (which is what we will be discussing about in this article) and perks or entitlements for pregnant employees going on maternity. Some companies may offer perks or entitlements that goes beyond the mandatory requirement. However, we need to recognise that these are perks that the companies are giving, which are beyond what is required under Singapore employment law.

Read Also: Singapore Employment Act: 10 Statutory Requirements To Pay Employees

Maternity Leave Eligibility 

To begin, we first need to understand the criteria for maternity leave eligibility.

> Child has to be a Singapore citizen at birth.

> Pregnant mother has to have worked for the employer, or is self-employed, for at least 3 continuous months before the birth of the child

> As of 1 January 2017, maternity leave benefits are also extended to eligible unwed mothers. This means you do not have to be legally married in order to enjoy maternity leave benefits.

In total, you will be eligible for 16 weeks of paid maternity leave.

In terms of cost, for an employee’s first or second child, the first 8 weeks of maternity leave will be borne by your employer, with the final 8 weeks borne by the government. If it is the third or subsequent child, all 16 weeks of paid maternity leave will be borne by the government.

In the event of stillbirth, mothers are eligible for full maternity leave benefits. However, this does not apply to abortion or miscarriages.

Do note that foreigners are eligible for maternity leave entitlements of 12 weeks. 

#1 Maternity Protection For Pregnant Employees

In order to safeguard the rights of pregnant employees, there this thing call maternity leave protection. This applies to all pregnant employees as long as they have been in their job for at least 3 months.

The maternity leave protection means that if a pregnant employee is dismissed without sufficient cause, or is retrenched, the employer is still required to pay for her maternity benefits.

#2 What Could Lead To Pregnant Employees Being Dismissed?

If an employee is dismissed while pregnant, it must be based on relevant and objective performance criteria, and after a thorough inquiry. Some clear misconduct that could prompt dismissal would include theft, dishonesty, disorderly or immoral conduct at work and insubordination.

Back in 2013, a local church dismissed a female employee after it was discovered that she was pregnant with the child of another church employee, who wasn’t her husband. The employer was subsequently asked by MOM to pay for the lady’s maternity benefit.

#3 When Does Maternity Protection Starts?

Maternity protection starts as long as the following two conditions have been met:

> Has worked for an employer for at least 3 months before receiving the notice of dismissal or retrenchment.

> Been certified pregnant by a medical practitioner before receiving the notice of dismissal or retrenchment.

While different people would have different perspectives on this, employees are generally encouraged to let your employers know about their pregnancy earlier rather than later.

This gives employers more time to balance responsibilities, and to bring in additional help if required.

Read Also: Anti-Discrimination Processes Recruiters Should Adopt To Comply With Fair Hiring Practices

#4 Employee Quitting While Pregnant

The truth here is that more often than not, pregnant mothers are also (figuratively speaking) stuck to their job when they are pregnant since it’s much harder for them to find a job while they are pregnant.

However, there is nothing to prevent a pregnant mother from leaving her workplace. By voluntarily leaving an employer, pregnant employees forfeit their maternity leave entitlements.

#5 Switching Jobs While On Maternity Leave

An employee on maternity leave cannot be dismissed by her employer.

If an employee on maternity leave decides to switch jobs, employers will no longer be liable for their maternity. However, the employee (or former employee now) cannot transfer any unused maternity leave.

Need Financing Support During This Period?

From now till 31 March 2021, SMEs can enjoy extra financing support of up to $5 million through the Temporary Bridging Loan Programme.

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