6 FEBRUARY 2017
Mr Ang Hin Kee
MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC
To ask the Minister for Social and Family Development
(a) what is the current status of the hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) in childcare centres and pre-schools;
(b) whether more support can be given to parents who have to make alternative arrangements when their children are unable to attend school; and
(c) how effective has the Ministry been in tackling challenges faced by parents who have insufficient childcare leave, whose children contracted HFMD more than once in a year, or who are unable to seek childcare support from family members.
Hand, Foot & Mouth Disease (HFMD) is a generally mild disease which is endemic in Singapore. Preventive measures are in place to minimise the transmission of HFMD in pre-schools. It is a regulatory requirement for pre-schools to conform to the Ministry of Health’s guidelines for the prevention and control of infectious diseases. This includes conducting daily health and temperature checks upon arrival, ensuring appropriate hand-washing by staff and children, and having an unwell child rest at the designated sick-bay while waiting for the parent or an authorised person to bring the child home.
Centres with two or more suspected or confirmed HFMD cases are required to report the cases to the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) and to the Ministry of Health (MOH). Centres are also required to implement enhanced measures to manage the outbreak of HFMD and are encouraged to conduct self-assessment on health and hygiene.
Centres that experience a high number of sustained cases over a period of time may be required to close. We understand that this would cause inconvenience to parents, however it is a useful step to break the cycle of transmission of the disease. Over the past 3 years, there have not been more than 5 centre closures every year. Additionally, there have not been local cases in pre-schools with severe complications due to HFMD.
To support working parents in caring for their young children, the Government has enhanced child and infant care leave provisions over the years. Each working parent with children below the age of seven has six days of child care leave per year, or a total of 12 days of child care leave for every couple. Each parent is also entitled to six days of unpaid infant care leave per year during the child’s first two years. These child care and infant care leave provisions are in addition to the parents’ annual leave provisions. We also recognise that grandparents and relatives too play an important role in supporting working parents by providing alternative care for their young children.
Companies too have an important role to play in supporting their employees to manage their work and family responsibilities. The proportion of firms providing ad-hoc flexible work arrangements rose from 70% in 2015 to 77% in 2016. These firms employ 82% of all employees, up from 76% in 2015. Employers who wish to implement flexible work arrangements can tap on various resources such as the WorkPro Work-Life Grant. The tripartite partners also published the Tripartite Advisory on Flexible Work Arrangements to help employers, supervisors and employees implement flexible work arrangements.
We urge parents to tap on these flexible work arrangements and enhanced leave provisions to better manage their work and parenthood responsibilities in caring for their children.