Year-long childcare leave for civil servants is unpaid, government clarifies

Female civil servants can opt to take childcare leave at a time of their choice, instead of having to take it immediately after their paid maternity leave. – Picture by Saw Siow Feng
Female civil servants can opt to take childcare leave at a time of their choice, instead of having to take it immediately after their paid maternity leave. – Picture by Saw Siow Feng

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 18 ― The Public Service Department (PSD) has clarified that the one-year childcare leave for female civil servants upon the birth of a child is without pay.

The government department said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, during the tabling of Budget 2015 last Friday, had merely announced an upgrade of the existing policy.

The new change permits female civil servants to obtain the leave at a time of their choice, instead of having to take it immediately after their paid maternity leave.

“The announcement by the prime minister is to improve the current policy, where the child care leave (unpaid leave) can be taken at any time without being tied to the end of the 60-day or 90-day maternity leave, and it is limited to one year,” PSD told Malay Mail Online in an email yesterday.

“Besides that, this leave is extended to female workers with stepchildren, legally adopted children, foster children and children with disabilities,” the government department added.

Najib said in his Budget 2015 speech that the amended policy will take effect January 1 next year.

The Malay Mail newspaper reported last Saturday that female civil servants could now go on leave for up to one year to care for their newborn, in addition to their three-month paid maternity leave, but did not specify that the child care leave is unpaid leave.

Recruitment agency Randstad Malaysia recommended a phased implementation of the child care leave policy to help employers and employees adjust to it.

“To get employers and employees used to a new system such as this, organisations can also look into the alternative solution of hiring contract workers while mothers go on their long leave,” Randstad Malaysia country director Jasmin Kaur told Malay Mail Online.

She added that the policy was a step in the right direction to encourage mothers to return to the workforce, even as Malaysia’s female labour force participation rate was only 52.4 per cent as of 2013.

A World Bank 2012 report had noted that the level of labour force participation among women was higher in Malaysia’s neighbouring countries like Singapore (60 per cent) and Thailand (70 per cent), and in high-income countries like UK (70 per cent) and Sweden (77 per cent).

Jasmin also said the child care leave policy should also be extended to fathers, noting that parents could share the leave equally or split it based on a certain percentage.

“However, it should be noted that for this to work, the government and organisations need to work together to ensure that the system is easy to administer and does not place added burdens on companies,” Jasmin said.

“Companies that have a framework that supports return-to-work mothers will be able to reap the benefits of increased employee engagement and loyalty,” she added, citing family-friendly policies like flexible hours, job-sharing and working from home.

Malaysia does not offer paternity leave. The UK has introduced a 12-month shared parental leave policy with up to 37 weeks of pay that will take effect next April, according to a recent Huffington Post UK report.

Scandinavian countries like Norway and Sweden offer the most generous paid parental leave policies, up to 42 weeks and 480 days respectively that can be split as parents choose, with a certain period reserved for each parent, according to a Guardian report last November.  

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