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    Feb 01, 2016

    Workplace childcare centres gain popularity

    FOR a growing number of parents, junior is only a stone's throw away in a childcare centre near their workplace.

    Last year, there were 390 childcare centres in workplaces, including those in commercial and government buildings or industrial estates. This is a rise of nearly 50 per cent from 2012.

    Last month, a childcare centre even opened on Sentosa. Islander Pre-School, under the EtonHouse chain, became the third pre-school there and caters to those working on the island.

    Childcare centres at workplaces made up 31 per cent of more than 1,200 childcare centres here last year, up from 26 per cent in 2012, according to figures from the Early Childhood Development Agency.

    The increase in such workplace childcare centres comes amid higher demand for childcare services as more women enter the workforce.

    It also follows an enhancement of the Workplace Child Care Centre Scheme in 2013, to allow building owners or employers to apply for grants covering up to half the cost of converting their premises into a childcare centre for employees. Previously, only government-owned buildings were eligible.

    Companies with childcare centres in their office premises said they allowed this as there was high demand for childcare services and they wanted to support their staff.

    One is at OCBC Centre at Chulia Street, set up in 2007, and another was established at Tampines Junction office complex in 2010 to meet the needs of parents in the bank's Tampines branch at a nearby building.

    OCBC's head of human resource planning, Jacinta Low, said: "We want to give (our) staff peace of mind that their child is well cared for in a safe environment and encourage employees to be more involved in the crucial growing years of their children."

    But operators noted that some companies are not keen to have childcare facilities in their premises.

    June Rusdon, chief executive of Busy Bees Asia which owns brands such as Learning Vision, said: "Some building owners have the perception that having a childcare centre negatively affects the 'image' of their building."

    It has 52 childcare centres here, with 19 at or near offices.

    Kinderland Educare Services general manager Seet Lee Kiang also noted that privately-owned buildings are less keen on allocating space for childcare facilities.

    Meanwhile, firms said they benefit from having workplace centres.

    Doreen Loh, head of human resources at IT company NCS, said: "We've observed higher productivity and lower absenteeism rate among the parents."

    Parents said having children in centres at their workplace and not near their homes has benefits.

    Derrick Sim, 31, who co-owns a marine services company with his father, works in an office on Sentosa. His two-year-old daughter is enrolled at Islander Pre-School.

    "My company is a family business so having my child enrolled in a centre on Sentosa allows for more opportunity for family bonding, as both my father and I can spend time with my daughter," he said.

    OCBC process and service innovation manager Rebecca Chiew, 32, has two sons in the pre-school at OCBC Centre.

    She said:"I get to spend more time with them during our morning and evening commutes. Having the pre-school and my office in the same building is also useful during emergencies - I can rush to them quickly when the need arises."