This is in line with the upcoming Tripartite Guidelines in 2024, which will make it mandatory for employers to fairly and properly consider FWA requests.
On 9 May 2022 (Monday), Singapore's Minister of State, Gan Siow Huang responded to a Parliamentary question on flexible work arrangements (FWAs) in Singapore, that was posed by Member of Parliament (MP) Dr Wan Rizal.
MP Wan had asked whether there are plans by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) to go beyond encouraging employers to retain and promote FWAs, such as telecommuting and staggered work hours, as a permanent feature of the workplace, especially after the easing of safe management measures (SMM) and workers returning to their workplace.
Minister Gan, on that note, explained that FWAs remain "relevant and important" to businesses.
As such, it is crucial employers "see the value of retaining FWAs" as, he explained, it not only strengthens business resilience, but also improves talent retention and attraction. Minister Gan cited a recent study by the Institute of Policy Studies on workplace arrangements also found that around eight in 10 respondents who telecommuted most - or all of the time - felt they were productive doing so.
That said, to MP Wan, "our surveys show that the majority of employers are keen to continue FWAs even after the pandemic ends, given the benefits FWAs bring to both employers and employees," she added.
The Minister also shared that the Tripartite Partners - MOM, National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), and Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) - agree that employers should sustain and promote FWAs as a permanent feature of the workplace, and even released a Tripartite Statement in April to encourage employers to continue providing them.
"In the last two years, employers implemented FWAs, especially telecommuting as an urgent measure for public health resilience even when they were unsure that this was good for productivity. For the provision of FWAs to be a sustainable and effective permanent measure, employers will need sufficient time and support to find the right calibration that works best for their employees while meeting business needs. After all, workplace settings and business needs differ across industries, and different employees also have differing needs and expectations of FWAs," Minister Gan said.
Moving forward, the Minister of State is confident that over the next few years, the Tripartite Partners "will do more" to strengthen training to equip companies with the know-how to implement FWAs in a win-win and sustainable manner, such as in areas of HR policy or job redesign.
On top of that, they will coordinate with Work-Life Ambassadors on the ground "to advocate for and support the implementation of FWAs", and bring more companies onboard the voluntary Tripartite Standard on FWAs, which is one domain mentioned in the Whitepaper on Singapore Women’s Development. Such, she said, includes having a clear policy on how to request for FWAs and expectations on its responsible use, timely communication of outcomes on FWA requests as well as fair and objective evaluation of employees’ FWA requests.
"The Public Service has taken the lead to adopt the Tripartite Standard on FWAs," Minister Gan shared.
"These efforts will put companies in good stead to comply with the upcoming Tripartite Guidelines that Tripartite Partners will introduce by 2024, which will make it a requirement for employers to fairly and properly consider FWA requests. Together, these efforts will establish the norm that it is acceptable to request for FWAs, while maintaining employers’ prerogative to assess and decide on these FWA requests based on their business and operational needs".
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