Minimum annual leave entitlement of 7 days in S'pore not enough: Louis Ng

Minister of State Gan Siow Huang responded that MOM regularly reviews its leave provisions, but increasing these should not be the default solution.

Ashley Tan | March 07, 2022, 03:51 PM

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Member of Parliament (MP) Louis Ng called on the government to raise the minimum annual leave entitlement of seven days, citing the need for more rest for workers in Singapore.

Ng, who is the MP for Nee Soon GRC, was speaking in Parliament during the Budget 2022 debates on Mar. 4.

Other countries have higher minimum entitlements

"Working hard is important, but one cannot work hard without enough rest," Ng said.

He shared that a minimum of seven days of annual leave a year is not sufficient, and cited other countries in the region such as Malaysia, Japan, South Korea, and Indonesia, which provide a higher minimum entitlement for workers.

Workers in Malaysia and Japan for example, are entitled to a minimum of eight days and 10 days of annual leave respectively.

Ng added that not only do other countries have a higher minimum annual leave entitlement, they also have a higher number of paid public holidays.

In Singapore, workers are entitled to 11 paid public holidays a year.

Typically lower income workers with less annual leave

Ng said "it is hard to see" how raising the minimum entitlement would affect employability, considering that 47 per cent of employees are already entitled to more than 14 days of annual leave.

"For many businesses who understand the importance of rest, nothing will change," he noted.

Ng also pointed out that lower income workers who hold more labour-intensive jobs are likely the ones with only seven days of annual leave.

However, he found it "ironic that those who need the most rest have the least rest".

Additionally, these workers do not have access to flexible work arrangements (FWAs), he said.

Ng concluded:

"We work hard to increase the salaries of low income workers, we should also work hard to increase the time they have to rest."

Increasing annual leave should not be "default solution"

Responding to Ng, as well as other MPs like Gerald Giam and Mariam Jaafar's call for more sick leave, Minister of State for Manpower Gan Siow Huang acknowledged "the real needs underpinning the members' suggestions".

The government regularly reviews its leave provisions, but increasing these should not be the "default solution", she said.

This is why the government has been advocating for the adoption of flexible work arrangements, as it is able to cater to "all forms of individual needs".

"We should also recognise that there is a cost to increasing leave provisions and we must balance this carefully against what businesses can sustain, in order to avoid dampening jobs growth," Gan added.

Gan also addressed sick leave for employees on short-term contracts, saying that MOM encourages employers to exercise flexibility in granting medical leave before the three-month mark.

On childcare sick leave and paternity leave

Previously on Mar. 2, Ng also called for for the government to consider providing childcare sick leave to all working parents on a per-child basis, as well as looking into ensuring more workers take paternity leave.

In response to Ng's statement, Second Minister for Finance Indranee Rajah agreed that parents need more flexibility and time away from work to care for their children.

She added that employers could be more supportive of fathers taking paternity leave, and "exercise more flexibility" to let them utilise it.

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