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StanChart to offer new dads 20 weeks of paid time off; HSBC extends paternity and maternity leave

SINGAPORE – New fathers working at two major banks here will soon be able to take more paid time off to spend with their newborns.

Standard Chartered Bank said on Wednesday that all employees will be able to take 20 weeks of paid parental leave from Friday, bringing new dads on a par with new mums.

StanChart’s female employees have been able to use 20 weeks of paid maternity leave since 2017 – exceeding the nationally mandated 16 weeks – as well as 20 weeks of paid adoption leave.

In line with national policy, the bank’s male employees can take two weeks of government-paid paternity leave and up to four weeks of shared parental leave from their wives’ maternity leave – if their wives agree.

HSBC also said on Wednesday that it is raising its paternity leave benefit to eight weeks and maternity leave to 26 weeks starting on Friday. This expands on its existing benefits that allow new dads two weeks of paid leave, while new mums can take 16 weeks.

HSBC Singapore head of human resources Mukul Anand said: “With the ever-changing needs of our workforce, we must continue to… enhance our policies to ensure that we are building an inclusive workplace where our employees can thrive at home and at work.”

StanChart said the change will apply to all its employees worldwide, regardless of gender, relationship status or how a child comes to permanently join their family.

Ms Tanuj Kapilashrami, the bank’s group head of human resources, said benefits such as longer parental leave help improve workforce participation and give options to employees who want to take up shared childcare responsibilities. “This will positively impact families’ financial well-being and create a more inclusive workplace that supports each individual’s unique family planning choices,” she added.

Mr Wong Yang-Sheng, StanChart’s head of human resources for Singapore, Australia and Brunei, said other initiatives to support parents on staff include a newborn allowance of $5,000 and a health savings account that employees or their spouses can use to reimburse maternity, infant care centre and childcare centre expenses.

In Singapore, StanChart employs about 9,000 people while HSBC employs about 4,000 people.

The provision of additional paternity leave at the two banks comes ahead of changes to national policy announced in the Budget earlier in 2023.

Finance Minister Lawrence Wong said then that the Government will reimburse companies for up to four weeks of paid paternity leave – higher than the current two weeks – for working fathers of Singaporean children born on or after Jan 1, 2024. Provision of the first two weeks of leave is compulsory; the next two will be optional, for a start.

Mr Wong, who is also Deputy Prime Minister, noted that more than half of fathers in Singapore take paternity leave.

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Other banks also offer benefits to support parents.

On Aug 1, Deutsche Bank increased paid leave for primary caregivers of newborns or newly adopted children to 26 weeks, from 16 weeks.

Non-primary caregivers – parents who are helping with caregiving but do not have primary responsibility for the care of the child – can take 16 weeks of paid leave, up from two weeks.

These leave benefits apply to permanent staff, regardless of gender, said a spokesman from the bank.

New dads at Citi Singapore have been able to take four weeks of paternity leave since 2020.

The bank runs a Maternity Matters programme that helps new mothers transition back to work and advance their careers.

Mums can access guidance on how to prepare a handover plan, for example, while their managers can get advice on how to conduct performance reviews for them. A six-month buddy programme added in 2020 pairs new parents with experienced volunteers.

UOB raised its paternity leave benefit to four weeks in April.

Mr Dean Tong, its head of group human resources, said the bank’s Gig+U Women programme launched in 2022 offers full- and part-time jobs as well as gig work to support women with parental and caregiving duties who want to re-enter the workforce.

DBS Bank employees with newborn or newly adopted children can work from home full-time for up to six months, beyond their regular paternity and maternity leave entitlements.

OCBC Bank provides the nationally mandated 16 weeks of paid maternity leave, two weeks of paid paternity leave and 12 weeks of paid adoption leave.

Mr Ernest Phang, its managing director for group human resources, added that employees can tap a scheme that provides, among other things, consultation sessions to help them reintegrate at work after parental leave.

Wednesday’s announcement by StanChart spells good news for Mr Romeo Loh, 35, a senior relationship manager with the bank, as he and his wife are expecting their first child – a son – in late September.

“I didn’t want to share my wife’s leave because maternity leave should be for her to rest and recover,” Mr Loh said. “And we wanted to try to get as little help as possible from our parents because we think at their age they should be enjoying playing with the kids and not having to look after them.”

He intends to take his first two weeks of paternity leave when his son is born and will plan with his colleagues and team leader when to take the remaining 18 weeks, though he hopes to use them after his wife’s maternity leave ends.

“I think the first year is very important for newborns, and this will allow us to spend more time with our kid,” added Mr Loh, who joined StanChart a year ago.

Ms Grace Choy, 34, a senior business development manager at HSBC Singapore, said the bank’s enhanced leave policy is “a wonderful gift” as she is expecting her second child in the coming days.

“It allows me to spend more time with my baby before putting her in infant care when I return to work,” she added.

“More importantly, the additional two months of leave will allow me to recover better both physically and mentally, and assimilate better into my new role as a working mum of two.”

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