Finance Ministry to set up parent lounge
New parents working for the Ministry of Finance will soon have a space to bring their young children if no one at home is available to care for them, under a new initiative for its 192 strong staff.
The Ministry's Chief Executive Officer, Leasiosiofa'asisina Oscar Malielegaoi, who recently welcomed another baby to his own family, said he knows the challenges families have balancing work and childcare.
He believes his Ministry can lead by example for the rest of the public sector to set aside room for parents to nurse or care for their children.
"Myself and especially my Minister (Sili Epa Tuioti) we are strong advocates of early childhood education, childhood development and, as a parent, I value that a lot,” he said.
“So within the confines of our workplace we want to dedicate a room for that purpose where young mothers can come in with their babies and there is assurance that they can work and their child is just next door.”
The project is still in the planning stages but Leasiosio hopes it will take off soon and sends a clear message to the 192 staff in the Ministry that they will have resources provided for the dedicated room.
He said he does not expect the space to have to cost much except for furnishings.
“Once you have a room that is 95 per cent of the cost, and we have some rooms we can allocate. We just have to make sure it’s near the kitchen area… it’s not an expensive exercise," he said.
The room will not be a nursery with a caregiver, but rather a space for parents to use freely as they require. Leasiosio said he was not told explicitly there was a demand from his staff for such a space, but that he knows it is needed.
“I know deep down there are a lot of young mothers that need this service,” he said.
“Especially with the shift to urban areas, we have grandparents in Savai'i who cannot afford to come here because they want to maintain their village life.
“That forces parents to be innovative and sometimes it’s hard to find a good babysitter. The best alternative is to have your baby in the office, near you.”
The space is available to all staff.
Leasiosio believes it may be the first such space across Government and hopes to see other Ministries make similar arrangements for their staff too.
In Samoa, pregnant women are entitled to four weeks' maternity leave with pay and two weeks' leave without pay, or six weeks leave on a reduced salary (two-thirds of their wage).
New fathers are entitled to five days' paid paternity leave.