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das1223
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If you were an employer...

Postby das1223 » Mon, 07 Oct 2013 5:55 pm

...what do you think in regards to a foreigner employee that asks for an UNPAID leave two months out of the year? Is this something I can negotiate with my employer..?

background on myself: I'm a trailing spouse that landed a job on a DP. I hold an ivy league US masters degree (not sure if it matters but listed anyway) and couple years of experience. I took on a job that pays local salary (about half of what I was getting paid in US) just for the experience alone bc I didn't want to be out of the job market for too long. I've been told this is how much the locals get paid.. so I've accepted this is how it is in Singapore for someone with less experience.

The concern is this: I am content with my job responsibilities and really enjoy working with my colleagues and boss as they're great, but I get homesick time to time and the leave I get (normal of every company) is not enough to make a trip out to the US. I thought about what would make me happy- and it's not a pay raise to match my past salary, or to get a higher position title. But it's to have a professional career where I can the opportunity to leave for a month, twice a year to go back home or to travel around SE Asia. To be fair to the company, it would be UNPAID and I'm fine with that.

I'd hate to quit altogether and to be a stay-at-home spouse, as that'll be wasting my talent and the opportunity to grow professionally. But I've been getting stressed being here for too long despite my short getaways to nearby countries for few days. It's an on-going struggle trying to find that right balance.

Are there any wives in similar situation as me- that have negotiated with their employer on this? Is this something that'll be laughed at, or is this reasonable, given that it'll be UNPAID? how should i approach bringing this up? I do not in any way want to offend the company. The work can be doable at home if they still wish me to work during my unpaid period, and I am confident I can finish all the assignments I'm responsible for. But i'm also worried they may not think i'm working hard enough, as they can't visually "see" me working in the office, or that I'm getting a "special treatment" just bc I'm a foreigner, which is obviously not the case.

any advice would be appreciated. btw- a question from a newbie, can any of my posts be deleted? if so, i'd like to post more detailed career questions in the future.

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Postby PNGMK » Mon, 07 Oct 2013 6:10 pm

In my purely personal experience, the smaller local employers will not like this. It's to do with the fear of a certain race that the sky will literally fall down if they're not holding it up 24/7/365.

However the larger MNC's should have a policy to cover this. I assume you've checked this out? My last MNC employer had a 'sabbatical' program that might have allowed something like this but I'm not sure about my current MNC.

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Postby Strong Eagle » Mon, 07 Oct 2013 8:52 pm

das1223 wrote:...what do you think in regards to a foreigner employee that asks for an UNPAID leave two months out of the year? Is this something I can negotiate with my employer..?

background on myself: I'm a trailing spouse that landed a job on a DP. I hold an ivy league US masters degree (not sure if it matters but listed anyway) and couple years of experience. I took on a job that pays local salary (about half of what I was getting paid in US) just for the experience alone bc I didn't want to be out of the job market for too long. I've been told this is how much the locals get paid.. so I've accepted this is how it is in Singapore for someone with less experience.

The concern is this: I am content with my job responsibilities and really enjoy working with my colleagues and boss as they're great, but I get homesick time to time and the leave I get (normal of every company) is not enough to make a trip out to the US. I thought about what would make me happy- and it's not a pay raise to match my past salary, or to get a higher position title. But it's to have a professional career where I can the opportunity to leave for a month, twice a year to go back home or to travel around SE Asia. To be fair to the company, it would be UNPAID and I'm fine with that.

I'd hate to quit altogether and to be a stay-at-home spouse, as that'll be wasting my talent and the opportunity to grow professionally. But I've been getting stressed being here for too long despite my short getaways to nearby countries for few days. It's an on-going struggle trying to find that right balance.

Are there any wives in similar situation as me- that have negotiated with their employer on this? Is this something that'll be laughed at, or is this reasonable, given that it'll be UNPAID? how should i approach bringing this up? I do not in any way want to offend the company. The work can be doable at home if they still wish me to work during my unpaid period, and I am confident I can finish all the assignments I'm responsible for. But i'm also worried they may not think i'm working hard enough, as they can't visually "see" me working in the office, or that I'm getting a "special treatment" just bc I'm a foreigner, which is obviously not the case.

any advice would be appreciated. btw- a question from a newbie, can any of my posts be deleted? if so, i'd like to post more detailed career questions in the future.


From the employer's perspective, the problem, of course, is who is going to do the work you would be doing, had you not been on leave? It is not an unreasonable question. Most employers don't have a spare employee waiting in the closet to handle such matters.

You might consider how you can find a second person who you will train/teach and who can fill in for you while on leave.

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Postby x9200 » Tue, 08 Oct 2013 7:19 am

The only solid fact is that this is pretty unusual. All the rest will depend on how much are you really needed, for how long you are going to disappear, how frequently is this going to happen and of course on your boss. They unlikely hired you to have you on leave even an unpaid one.
If your boss is a nice person you may want to talk to him.

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Postby Girl_Next_Door » Tue, 08 Oct 2013 8:38 am

Here are a few factors to consider:

1) Look for large international firms, especially US firms since your plans is to go visit US regularly. They will also appreciate your Ivy League degree more than smaller local companies. In my current office, we have the flexibility to work short term in another office (as long as the other side can provide a space and the bosses there are ok with it), instead of taking long period of leave. Some colleagues appreciate this flexibility while some prefer to not work when they are traveling home. We have quite a number of colleagues posted to different countries and sometimes, they will park themselves at their home country, work for a couple of weeks (whether it is NYC, London, SG, HK, AU or India), spend the evenings and weekends with their families instead of taking unpaid leave.

2) Your direct supervisor plus supportive colleagues makes a huge difference. Even if you work in an organization which offers such flexibility to some staff, HR policy always has a clause which is subject to your boss's approval. If your direct supervisor is not supportive of this idea/concept, there is really not much you can do. You also need supportive colleagues who are willing to back you up when you need to be away. This indirectly mean that you are looking for a unpolitical working environment in a large MNC, which is another challenge. If you are working for a small team and you are the only person doing your role, it is highly unlikely that your supervisor will let you take unpaid leave for a prolong period.

3) Look out for positions that allows flexi working hours and/or ability to work from home. More international banks are offering staff the options to work from home, which means you can possibly work a few days a week, while you are back in US.

4) Banks also offer much more annual leaves (between 21 - 30 days, depending on banks and your level) than other industries. I am not sure how many annual leaves does other industry/companies offer, but from my group of friends, most of them have about 2 weeks off per year.

Unlike European countries, most Singapore companies does not really promote work-life balance, sabbatical or unpaid leave. Headcount and budget are closely watched and most employers tend to squeeze as much out of their employee. There are still some pockets whereby some flexibility can be offered, but you have to look really hard for them.

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Postby PNGMK » Tue, 08 Oct 2013 10:49 am

GND has a good post there. MNC is the best route (or maybe your own business?).

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Postby ecureilx » Tue, 08 Oct 2013 11:04 am

large MNCs, from what I know, allow upto 2 months unpaid leave, every 3 to 5 year, not every year !!!

btw, the reason local employers don't like this arrangement is .. due to the fear the employee will doing test drives at other prospective employers' place ;)

seen that happen too..

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Postby das1223 » Tue, 08 Oct 2013 5:31 pm

Hi everyone, I appreciate all your replies (especially Girl_next_door thank you!). Yes I do agree with all your responses that it's unusual and that most Singaporean companies would be uncomfortable with the idea. Thus the reason why I'm so hesitant to bring it up... I'd hate to look irresponsible or undedicated to the company.

I work for a large MNC, but my work is more local based so there would be no work for me to do back in America. I am able to do most of my work at home as long as I have internet and access to company drives, but I don't think our firm is comfortable with the idea of working from home. We do get random requests from other depts and at times casually discuss ideas and thoughts over in the pantry, so I could see why working from home or unpaid long-term leave would seem unfavorable to the employer. However, there's no doubt that I am able to cover all my responsibilities and respond in a timely manner when I'm away as I can check my emails constantly and submit projects online, but it's just the matter of whether employer finds it frustrating that I'm not physically present when they need me asap.

I guess I may have to just bear through another year before I ask to be transferred to another dept doing more 'international work' so that I may be able to work in diff areas. or quit altogether until we move back home in few years? thanks again for all the advice!

**I work mostly with locals in my dept, and after much thought, I may be feeling unhappy and trapped due to the culture differences here as I try my best to not stand out and do the things they do. Thus my hesitation to even ask for an unpaid leave. I can't deny that I do feel a bit undervalued for the work that i do (low local pay) and remorseful at times that i'm "the foreigner," as I realize Singapore may not be as foreigner welcoming as they state, based on new policies that limit foreigners...

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Postby PNGMK » Tue, 08 Oct 2013 7:15 pm

das1223 wrote:Hi everyone, I appreciate all your replies (especially Girl_next_door thank you!). Yes I do agree with all your responses that it's unusual and that most Singaporean companies would be uncomfortable with the idea. Thus the reason why I'm so hesitant to bring it up... I'd hate to look irresponsible or undedicated to the company.

I work for a large MNC, but my work is more local based so there would be no work for me to do back in America. I am able to do most of my work at home as long as I have internet and access to company drives, but I don't think our firm is comfortable with the idea of working from home. We do get random requests from other depts and at times casually discuss ideas and thoughts over in the pantry, so I could see why working from home or unpaid long-term leave would seem unfavorable to the employer. However, there's no doubt that I am able to cover all my responsibilities and respond in a timely manner when I'm away as I can check my emails constantly and submit projects online, but it's just the matter of whether employer finds it frustrating that I'm not physically present when they need me asap.

I guess I may have to just bear through another year before I ask to be transferred to another dept doing more 'international work' so that I may be able to work in diff areas. or quit altogether until we move back home in few years? thanks again for all the advice!

**I work mostly with locals in my dept, and after much thought, I may be feeling unhappy and trapped due to the culture differences here as I try my best to not stand out and do the things they do. Thus my hesitation to even ask for an unpaid leave. I can't deny that I do feel a bit undervalued for the work that i do (low local pay) and remorseful at times that i'm "the foreigner," as I realize Singapore may not be as foreigner welcoming as they state, based on new policies that limit foreigners...

What's your HYP degree in?

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Postby x9200 » Tue, 08 Oct 2013 7:25 pm

Can you tell us what sort of duration of unpaid leave you have in mind and how much paid leave do you have? MNCs are more tolerant so I think if it is something like 14 and 14 I would not worry too much.
I was once approach by a really big MNC and they wanted me on local terms including the annual leave of 14days. As I strongly disagreed with this number they responded they could not do anything about it but they would just top up my salary to the level corresponding to the leave I requested and I was supposed to take an unpaid leave instead.

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Postby Girl_Next_Door » Wed, 09 Oct 2013 1:00 pm

das1223 wrote:Hi everyone, I appreciate all your replies (especially Girl_next_door thank you!). Yes I do agree with all your responses that it's unusual and that most Singaporean companies would be uncomfortable with the idea. Thus the reason why I'm so hesitant to bring it up... I'd hate to look irresponsible or undedicated to the company.

I work for a large MNC, but my work is more local based so there would be no work for me to do back in America. I am able to do most of my work at home as long as I have internet and access to company drives, but I don't think our firm is comfortable with the idea of working from home. We do get random requests from other depts and at times casually discuss ideas and thoughts over in the pantry, so I could see why working from home or unpaid long-term leave would seem unfavorable to the employer. However, there's no doubt that I am able to cover all my responsibilities and respond in a timely manner when I'm away as I can check my emails constantly and submit projects online, but it's just the matter of whether employer finds it frustrating that I'm not physically present when they need me asap.

I guess I may have to just bear through another year before I ask to be transferred to another dept doing more 'international work' so that I may be able to work in diff areas. or quit altogether until we move back home in few years? thanks again for all the advice!

**I work mostly with locals in my dept, and after much thought, I may be feeling unhappy and trapped due to the culture differences here as I try my best to not stand out and do the things they do. Thus my hesitation to even ask for an unpaid leave. I can't deny that I do feel a bit undervalued for the work that i do (low local pay) and remorseful at times that i'm "the foreigner," as I realize Singapore may not be as foreigner welcoming as they state, based on new policies that limit foreigners...


I understand where you are coming from and very often, locals have very rigid work style. Working in a team doing more "international/regional" work definitely helps. You will also have more international colleagues with different work style. I am not sure which fields you are working in, but if it is in financial sector, you should keep your eyes open. Headcounts are usually released in Q3-Q4, for budget purposes. You might be able to find a position that pays more fairly to what you deserve, in a more international environment. Don't give up hope!


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