Singapore

Parents 'fined' for late pick-up of kids from childcare centres

Childcare centres' fine policy in place to ensure parents are punctual to collect their children

As evening descends and street lights are being turned on, people in office attire walk briskly or even sprint to a void-deck centre decorated in bright colours.

This is not an uncommon sight during closing time at many childcare centres across Singapore.

These adults are rushing to pick up their children as a fine may await even if they are just minutes late.

These fines, which are set by the centres, can be about $10 for every five minutes that a parent is late. A few parents have paid more than $100 on occasions when they could not pick up their children on time and were late by around 11/2 hours.

More centres are taking a harder stance against tardy parents, said industry players, as this has become more of a problem in recent years partly because of more frequent train delays and busier roads.

A check online showed that at least one in 10 of some 1,400 childcare centres here have a late-pickup fine policy.

The Ministry of Social and Family Development does not regulate how the centres determine additional charges for late pickups, as these are commercial arrangements between the centres and parents.

Most childcare centres close at 7pm on weekdays and 2pm on Saturdays. They have the discretion to extend services beyond standard operating hours, according to the ministry.

The centre’s intention is good, but it can be a costly lesson if we turn up minutes late. A parent

Staff at some centres said late charges were introduced to deal with some parents who were repeatedly late.

The supervisor of a centre in Ang Mo Kio, who declined to be named, said: "We have to be fair to the teachers, who may have plans after work, such as having dinner with their families."

The centre introduced the surcharge last year because a few parents would deliberately arrive later, taking advantage of how teachers would still stay around after closing time.

Some centres give verbal warnings before enforcing the penalties. Others offer a grace period of five to 10 minutes.

Iyad Perdaus Child Development, which runs three centres - in Choa Chu Kang, Hougang and Jurong East - has had a fine system for more than 20 years.

Madam Zaiton Mohd Ali, head of the childcare provider, said it gives parents one chance before enforcing the fine.

If parents still do not show up after five-minute grace period, they are charged $10 for the next five minutes and $5 for every subsequent five minutes.

Madam Zaiton said the situation has improved over the years. Late pickups now happen once to thrice a month, and do not exceed 30 minutes.

Still, some parents have called for more flexibility, as they are already paying hefty childcare fees.

A parent, who did not give his name, said that he is sometimes late because of work.

"Sometimes, my wife and I can't get off work on time. It is also not nice to keep requesting to leave work earlier. The centre's intention is good, but it can be a costly lesson if we turn up minutes late," he said.

But not all parents are against the penalties.

Business manager Jody Wong, 35, who has a four-year-old daughter, said the fine system encourages parents to be punctual.

"Children look to their parents as role models. Many would be disappointed if they have to wait a long time for their parents to pick them up."

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SAMANTHA BOH

 

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