MADAM Chen Siew Lan works in a bubble tea outlet in Pasir Ris which opens till about 10.30pm.

But the 61-year-old, who is employed as a helper, is able to leave every day at 5pm so that she can go home and look after her 17-year-old son who has cerebral palsy.

Her employer, Khong Holdings Enterprises, also allows her to take time off to tend to family matters.

Yesterday, it was among nine companies which received awards at an event organised by the North East Community Development Council, with the support of the Singapore Workforce Development Agency.

Four companies - Khong Holdings, Seng Meng Laundry Service, K&N Accounting Services and One Marina Property Services - were given the Employer of the Year prize for going the extra mile to meet the needs of staff and for their human resource practices.

At K&N Accounting Services, Ms Loh Yee Chen, 25, a hearing impaired employee, was hired as an accounts executive last year.

Colleagues communicate with her through writing and texting and she is allowed to leave early to attend night classes twice a week.

The council also gave out the Most Supportive Employers award to NTUC FairPrice Cooperative, Zingrill Holdings, Oriental Aviation International, Resorts World Sentosa and SMRT Corp.

They had recruited the most number of people through the council's career centre.

MP for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC and guest of honour, Mr Zainal Sapari, said: "In order for companies to survive, they have to look beyond the traditional source of labour and tap on back-to-work women and elderly Singaporeans who are potentially employable."

Mr Paul Khong, owner of Khong Holdings, agrees.

Referring to Madam Chen, whom the firm took on last year, he said that she has "turned out to be the most reliable of all our staff".