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Maternity Leave: Understanding Your Rights As A Pregnant Employee In Singapore

Are you aware of your rights as a pregnant employee?

Recently, BudgetBabe wrote an insightful article about workplace discrimination against pregnant mothers in Singapore. In her article, she shared three real-life experiences of mothers in Singapore who felt that there were on the receiving end of unfair discrimination.

If you have not already read the article, we encourage for you to read it first.

The article, which may just be the tip of the iceberg of what could be happening on the ground, also caused us to realise just how important it is for Singaporeans, in particular, mothers-to-be, to know about their rights as pregnant employees.

Before we start, it’s important for us to stress that we have to differentiate between rights (which is what we will be discussing about in this article) and perks or entitlements. 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.

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, if this is your first or second child, your first 8 weeks of maternity leave will be borne by your employer, with the final 8 weeks borne by the government. If it’s your 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 My Maternity Protection Starts?

Your maternity protection starts as long as the following two conditions have been met.

> Worked for your 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 perspective on this, you are generally encouraged to let your employers know about your pregnancy earlier rather than later.

In fact, there is no real need for you to hold back informing your employer since informing them early gives them more time to balance your responsibilities, and to bring in additional help if required.

# 4 Quitting While You Are Pregnant

There is nothing to prevent a pregnant mother from leaving her workplace. However, it’s also important to think ahead.

By voluntarily leaving your employer, you forfeit your maternity leave entitlements.

Of course, if you are able to find another job (while pregnant) and are able to work continuously for 3 months before delivering your baby, you would still enjoy your maternity leave entitlement from your new employer. But that, of course, hinges on you being able to find a job when you are pregnant.

The blunt 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.

# 5 Switching Jobs While On Maternity Leave

If you are on your maternity leave and switch jobs, you would not be able to transfer any unused leave. So, complete your maternity leave before you switch jobs.

Do note as well that an employee on maternity leave cannot be dismissed by her employer.

Are there any other important areas that you think we may have missed out on? Drop us an email at [email protected]

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