The National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) thinks fathers should get two weeks' paid paternity leave to be more active in caring for their babies.
Announcing its latest pro-family and pro-baby ideas, assistant secretary-general Cham Hui Fong said yesterday that the labour movement hoped the Government would consider granting fathers this time off.
It is proposing paternity leave in addition to the current 16 weeks of maternity leave, and that a father may share his leave with his wife during their baby's first year.
The NTUC, which earlier raised employers' hackles by suggesting that maternity leave be extended to six months, has been busy asking married workers, women between 30 and 39 years old, as well as singles, how workplaces can be more family-friendly.
It swung into action after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said at the National Day Rally in August that the current four months of maternity leave seemed just right and there might be a way for fathers to share that leave with their wives.
Its family development unit, UFamily, organised discussions with working parents and did a survey of 1,000 people.
Ms Cham said yesterday that the majority felt the current four months of maternity leave was not enough, they were in favour of paternity leave, and called for more flexi-work arrangements.
Half of those surveyed said their employers did not encourage work-life balance, and three out of four thought it would be hard to ask for flexi-work arrangements to suit the needs of their families.
The NTUC submitted its first round of recommendations to the National Population and Talent Division in August, and will be sending in its latest ideas to the Government no later than next month.
Speaking to reporters at a picnic organised by U Family at Marina Barrage, Ms Cham also revealed several other proposals.
In a statement, the NTUC said employers can do more to show they support families, and one way is to let employees have quality time at home on working days too.
"NTUC wants to set a new social norm," it said.
"For a start, it calls on employers in unionised companies to let staff off on time every day to spend time with their families."
A "leave on time" policy would send a signal that employers place families first. Some have already made Friday the day workers leave on time or even go home earlier.
The NTUC also wants flexi-work arrangements to become a right extended to all working parents, with priority for those with special-needs or very young children.
For a start, it said, there ought to be a set of guidelines applicable to employers with larger workforces, and this could be legislated later.
Ms Cham told reporters that there was a sense from the feedback to NTUC that fathers wanted more time for errands such as taking their children for vaccinations.
The two weeks' leave would be useful for them, and did not need to be taken at one go, she said.
Some employers can be expected to resist the idea.
"My sense is two weeks of paternity leave might be disruptive for certain companies which operate within very tight working hours or arrangements," said Singapore National Employers Federation executive director Koh Juan Kiat.
"We think that to make it work, some flexibility must be given to companies as to how paternity leave can be scheduled."
Likewise, Mr Kurt Wee, vice-president of the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (Asme), said that the two weeks should not be taken all at once.
As for who will pay for the paternity leave, Ms Cham said: "Of course, it has to be paid for, but whether that's part of the paternity leave given by the Government, I think this we will leave to the Government to deliberate."