Employers should be ‘understanding’, but no new holidays: MOM

by Ben Abbott16 Feb 2015
HR teams will not have to factor in a new public holiday any time soon, with the Ministry of Manpower saying in clear terms that 11 is enough.
 
The MOM has ruled out making Thaipusam a new public holiday, despite recent calls for the Hindu festival to find a place in the local public holiday calendar.
 
MOM workplace policy & strategy divisional director Alvin Lim said in a statement the government is unable – in effect – to please everybody.
 
“The 11 public holidays that we now enjoy is neither high nor low when compared to other countries,” Lim said. “It is the same number enjoyed by New Zealanders, Canadians and the French, among others.”
 
Lim said while close neighbours Malaysia and Indonesia enjoy “a few more days than we do”, the UK and Germany actually have less than Singapore.
 
Despite an unwillingness to accommodate Thaipusam in the calendar, Lim called on employers and HR teams to be mindful of such religious holidays.
 
“While we will always ensure that all Singaporeans can practise their faiths freely, it is impractical to make all important festivals of all faiths public holidays.
 
“But it must always be possible for Singaporeans of all faiths to make arrangements to observe their respective religious festivals. We encourage all employers to show understanding and flexibility in this regard,” he said.
 
Lim did not detail how he expected employers to accommodate the economic burden and greater flexibility the government is unwilling to shoulder.
 
Thaipusam is a Hindu festival celebrated primarily by the Tamil community. It was a holiday until 1968, when it was excised from the calendar as part of a complex process of consolidation of the number of local public holidays.
 
While calls for Thaipusam to be reinstated followed this year’s celebration in early February, there are fears this would inflame other communities.
 
“Any move to reinstate any one festival as a public holiday will immediately invite competing claims, and necessitate considerable renegotiation with all communities,” Lim explained.
 
“Balancing the wishes of each community will not be a simple matter. Neither can we simply re-allocate public holidays by ethnic group, as amongst both Chinese and Indians we have citizens of a few different faiths.”
 
The MOM statement said the current calendar – minus Thaipusam - was what it considered a good reflection of Singapore’s multi-ethnic, multi-religious society.
 
“We have learnt to live harmoniously with each other with this balanced approach, where everyone makes some compromises for the greater good,” Lim said.
 
“It has served us well for the better part of five decades and remains the best way for Singapore.”
 
Singapore’s 2015 holiday calendar
Holiday Date Day
New Year’s Day 1 January 2015 Thursday
Chinese New Year 19 February 2015 Thursday
20 February 2015 Friday
Good Friday 3 April 2015 Friday
Labour Day 1 May 2015 Friday
Vesak Day 1 June 2015 Monday
Hari Raya Puasa 17 July 2015 Friday
National Day 9 August 2015* Sunday (Monday 10th is a public holiday)
Hari Raya Haji 24 September 2015 Thursday
Deepavali 10 November 2015 Tuesday
Christmas Day 25 December 2015 Friday
Source: Ministry of Manpower
 

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