Model ID: c5999cec-a133-4afa-a85f-20b8aa6c0122 Sitecore Context Id: c5999cec-a133-4afa-a85f-20b8aa6c0122;

NTUC Calls for More Caregiving Support for Workers to Better Manage Work and Caregiving Responsibilities

Model ID: c5999cec-a133-4afa-a85f-20b8aa6c0122 Sitecore Context Id: c5999cec-a133-4afa-a85f-20b8aa6c0122;
20 Sep 2023
EWMC Caregiving.JPG
Model ID: c5999cec-a133-4afa-a85f-20b8aa6c0122 Sitecore Context Id: c5999cec-a133-4afa-a85f-20b8aa6c0122;
- NTUC #EveryWorkerMatters Conversations’ recommendations on caregiving support for workers with caregiving commitment -

The National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) is calling for greater support for workers who have caregiving responsibilities. Speaking today at an NTUC Health Caregiver Support Group event, NTUC Secretary-General Ng Chee Meng shared some findings from the year-long NTUC #EveryWorkerMatters Conversations campaign, covering key areas of flexible work arrangements and enhanced support for workers who have to care for their elderly family members.

Ageing Population, Greater Caregiving Needs

As Singapore’s population ages rapidly with nearly one in four Singaporeans who will be aged 65 and above by 2030,1 more family members will need regular care. At the same time, our workforce and family sizes are shrinking 2 . Caregiving responsibilities borne by our workers are set to increase over time.

In a survey conducted by NTUC in January to February this year of about 1,000 respondents, when asked what would help them most in managing work and caregiving responsibilities, most preferred flexible working arrangements (85%), paid leave for caregiving (64%) and financial support such as medical/healthcare insurance or subsidies (57%). Refer to Annex A, Qn 1.

Recommendation 1: Workers need access to more flexible work arrangements to manage unique caregiving responsibilities
With workers needing to shoulder more caregiving responsibilities, they will need flexible work arrangements (FWAs) to juggle work and caregiving. Employers can play an important role here, by:
a. ensuring that FWA policies are flexible enough to cater to the needs of different caregivers and their loved ones;
b. redesigning jobs to split up job tasks and enable workers to complete certain tasks remotely; and
c. disclosing types of FWAs and details in job advertisements to allow jobseekers to filter job advertisements based on the specific type of FWA that suits their needs.

In April this year, NTUC worked with a cleaning company, Chye Thiam Maintenance, to allow workers to complete their training flexibly and select preferred working days and hours at work sites. This arrangement allows their workers to manage caregiving responsibilities as they continue to work. In turn, the organisation was able to attract and retain their workforce in the manpower-tight essential services sector.

In addition to working with employers, NTUC also works with tripartite partners at the national level to develop Tripartite Standards, such as those pertaining to Flexible Work Arrangements, Unpaid Leave for Unexpected Care Needs, and Work-Life Harmony. Earlier this month, a tripartite workgroup was formed to develop Tripartite Guidelines on FWAs that will guide employers in offering FWAs which will ensure business needs are met and making it acceptable and easier for workers to request FWAs. The Tripartite Guidelines on FWAs are expected to launch in 2024.

Recommendation 2: Workers need more support to care for their elderly family members
The survey also asked the respondents on the impact of caregiving responsibilities on them:

a. Time away from work. More than half (52%) reported taking time off work, and more than 40% reported taking no-pay leave and taking leave frequently. Refer to Annex A, Qn 2.

b. Performance and welfare. More than 30% reported difficulties with concentrating, less co-worker interaction, and decreased productivity at work. Close to 20% reported facing tensions or problems with co-workers and supervisors, feelings of isolation, and decreased confidence in their own ability.

c. Job prospects. About one in 10 (more than 10%) reported turning down promotions or opportunities for career progression, and receiving warnings about their performance or attendance.

Given the mounting challenges that workers face in their caregiving duties, they need greater support to care for their elderly family members, such as:
a. paid caregiving leave
b. unpaid leave for unexpected care needs
c. employee support schemes for elderly family members
d. improved accessibility and affordability of care services

Paid caregiving leave. Caregivers currently do not have any statutory leave to care for elderly, ill or disabled family members. However, more employers are recognising the need for paid caregiving leave, with the proportion of employers offering paid family care leave (including for elderly parents and parents-in-law) doubling from 15% to 30% from 2012 to 2022 3 . NTUC recommends that all workers should be provided with a baseline of statutory paid caregiving leave to support their care for elderly family members and tend to unexpected care needs in the long run. The definition of family members should be broad enough to cover relations by blood, marriage or adoption, and leave provisions should be flexible enough to cover chronic illnesses, and physical as well as mental conditions.

Unpaid leave for unexpected care needs. There are existing Tripartite Standards on Unpaid Leave for Unexpected Care Needs, which were introduced in 2018 to encourage employers to voluntarily offer up to two weeks of unpaid leave per year for employees to care for immediate family members during or after hospitalisation. NTUC urges more employers to support workers whose family members have unexpected care needs by extending greater flexibility in work arrangements and in providing time-off (including unpaid leave) when needed.

Employee support schemes for elderly family members. Employers should also review their policies to consider providing more support for workers to care for elderly family members. For instance, employers may extend medical and insurance coverage to workers and their elderly family members. Such measures may help employers to retain workers while helping workers to manage work and caregiving responsibilities.

Improved accessibility and affordability of care services. Workers should also be able to access and afford care services. Although the Government and other stakeholders have been working to improve the accessibility and affordability of care services to alleviate the financial and other loads by caregivers, anxieties remain. NTUC urges all stakeholders to continue working on assuring caregivers of their ability to afford and access the eldercare services they need.

NTUC Health Caregivers Support Group

NTUC #EveryWorkerMatters Conversations recommendations on caregiving support were shared by NTUC Secretary-Geneal Ng Chee Meng with over 25 caregivers at NTUC Health Caregivers Support Group event on 20 September at NTUC Health Active Ageing Centre at Taman Jurong. With him was Ms Yeo Wan Ling, NTUC Director of U Women and Family and U Small and Medium Enterprises. They engaged the caregivers in breakout groups as the caregivers shared their caregiving experiences and learning points with fellow caregivers.

NTUC Secretary-General Ng Chee Meng said, “Our population is ageing rapidly. More of our workers will face mounting caregiving responsibilities. Workers need to be assured that they can fulfil both their work and caregiving responsibilities. NTUC is committed to championing the needs of caregivers. NTUC calls on everyone to play their part to build an ecosystem to support caregivers. For employers, a key and useful move is to provide more flexible work arrangement – this can retain a worker segment that may otherwise leave employment to fulfil their caregiving responsibilities. At the same time, we also urge employers to voluntarily provide paid caregiving leave, as some have already done. We strongly urge the Government to foster this ecosystem, and consider instituting paid leave for workers with caregiving responsibilities.”