If you are expecting a baby, you will be happy to hear that Singapore laws provide for maternity leave and benefits. All expecting working mothers are entitled to either twelve or sixteen weeks of maternity leave, depending on your work situation and whether your child is a Singapore citizen.
*If your child is born in Singapore and at least one parent is a Singapore citizen, your child will automatically become a Singapore citizen.
Figuring out whether you are entitled to twelve or sixteen weeks of maternity leave can be difficult if you don’t know the law. You need to see if you are covered by the Employment Act or by one of the government-paid maternity schemes to plan your leave and finances around the birth of your child.
Let’s look at the various options for maternity leave eligibility, maternity benefits and what to do if there is a dispute about your maternity leave.
Eligibility for maternity leave
When do you qualify for paid leave under the Employment Act (EA)?
If the Employment Act covers you, you are entitled to paid maternity leave of twelve weeks, even if your child is not a Singapore citizen. To be covered under the EA, you must have worked for your employer for at least three months.
The Employment Act covers most workers, but there are some specific exclusions. The following workers are not covered:
- Managers and executives earning more than $4,500 basic salary per month
- Domestic Workers
- Civil servants or Statutory Board employees
If your child becomes a Singapore citizen within twelve months of the child’s birth, you may be able to take another four weeks of maternity leave and qualify for benefits under the GPML scheme. If not, you will only be entitled to twelve weeks.
Who pays for your benefits?
Under the EA scheme, your employer pays for your maternity leave and cannot claim reimbursement from the government. Your employer must pay your usual monthly salary for the first eight weeks, but the last four weeks may count as unpaid leave. Whether your employer pays or not for the last four weeks will depend on the terms of your employment contract.
What is your position if you are not covered under the Employment Act?
Mothers who don’t qualify for benefits under the Employment Act may be eligible for benefits under the government’s Child Development Co-Savings Act (CDCA) and Government-Paid Maternity Leave (GPML) scheme. This would include self-employed mothers with no employment contracts.
When do you qualify for paid leave under a government scheme?
- If the child is a Singapore citizen; and
- You qualify as a “working mother.”
To qualify as a “working mother”, you must be:
- Employed by an employer for at least three continuous months before the birth of your child; or
- Must have been self-employed for at least three continuous months and lost income during the maternity leave period.
If you meet all the criteria, you are eligible for sixteen weeks of government-paid maternity leave under the CDCA and the GPML scheme.
Who pays for your benefits?
Both your employer and the government are involved in paying your maternity leave. Your employer will pay your regular monthly salary for sixteen weeks. The employer claims reimbursement from the government under the Government-Paid Maternity Leave scheme. The employer pays for the first eight weeks for the first and second child and can claim reimbursement for the last eight weeks. For a third or subsequent child, the government will reimburse the employer for all sixteen weeks.
Benefits under the Government-Paid Maternity Benefit scheme
Mothers who do not qualify for Government-Paid Maternity Leave may be eligible for benefits under the Government-Paid Maternity Benefit (GPMB) scheme. This could include mothers who have not worked for their employers for three months, or mothers in short-term employment.
The benefit you will receive is the same as the government portion you would have received if you qualified for benefits under the GPML scheme, i.e. eight weeks, or sixteen weeks if it is your third child. The amount is based on your gross rate of pay and employer CPF contributions, and net trade income you earned in the twelve months preceding your child’s birth.
To qualify for benefits under the GPMB scheme:
- Your child must be a Singapore citizen; and
- You have been employed for a total of at least ninety days in the twelve months preceding the birth of your child.
Must I take my maternity leave all at once?
No, you can spread it out over twelve months. By default, maternity leave starts four weeks before the expected delivery date and continues over the next eight or twelve weeks.
You could, however, negotiate with your employer and start anytime within the four weeks before your due date and take the first eight weeks continuously. You can take the last eight or four weeks flexibly over the twelve months from your child’s birth.
The responsibility is on the employee to come to a mutually acceptable arrangement with her employer. You must give your employer at least one week’s notice before going on maternity leave.
Can you share your maternity leave with your husband?
Yes, if you are eligible for Government-Paid Maternity Leave, you may choose to share a maximum of four weeks with your working husband. To qualify for shared parental leave, you must be legally married, and the child must be a Singapore citizen.
Are you entitled to leave when you adopt a child?
Yes, under the Child Development Co-Savings Act, a female employee is entitled to twelve weeks of adoption leave, provided that she meets all the eligibility criteria.
- The child must be younger than twelve months old when adopted.
- You have worked for your employer or are self-employed for at least three months before the eligible date.
- The child is a Singapore citizen, or if the child is a foreigner, either of the adoptive parents must be a Singapore citizen, and the child must become a citizen within six months of adoption.
- The adoption order must be granted within one year from the eligible date.
Maternity leave protections and obligations
As an employee, you are protected against dismissal without sufficient cause and retrenchment.
You have an obligation not to work for anyone else during your period of maternity leave. If you do, you may be dismissed, and you will forfeit your maternity benefits.
The employer is obligated to pay your benefits that you are entitled to as if you worked without a break. The employer may not ask the employee to work during the first four weeks after the baby’s birth.
If an employee resigns or is dismissed with sufficient cause during the maternity leave period, she will forfeit her maternity leave entitlements. She will be subject to the same resignation or termination clauses as any other employee not on maternity leave.
Maternity leave disputes
Unfortunately, many women find themselves in a situation where their employment contracts are terminated when they fall pregnant. Dismissing an employee because she is pregnant is against the law in Singapore.
If you have worked for your employer for at least three months, and you had obtained a doctor’s certification of your pregnancy before you received any dismissal notice, you are protected against redundancy and dismissal without sufficient cause during pregnancy.
If you are made redundant or dismissed without sufficient cause, your employer must pay your full maternity leave benefits to you.
Pregnant employees can, however, still be dismissed for other reasons such as poor performance. These grey areas often give rise to maternity benefit disputes.
If you feel that you were unfairly dismissed, you should discuss it with your employer.
If you cannot resolve the issue and have not been paid your maternity leave benefits, you should file a claim with the Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management. You can only file a claim if you are covered under the Employment Act or the Child Development Co-Savings Act.
If it is found that you were wrongfully dismissed, the Minister of Manpower may order the employer to:
- Reinstate you in your previous position and pay the amount you would have earned if not dismissed; or
- Pay fair compensation
Singapore law aims to facilitate an employment culture where pregnant mothers are supported and protected. If you feel that your maternity rights were infringed in any way, speak to a lawyer with experience in this field. The law is on your side.