Working from home just got easier for many Singapore workers

Over 250 companies have already signed up for a new tripartite standard focusing on flexible working arrangements.

While flexible work arrangements have become increasingly common in Singapore in recent years, having these options became more certain for Singapore workers on Friday (October 6), when a new tripartite standard promoting such practices was launched.

Short of being a legal requirement, this new set of voluntary guidelines aims to encourage Singapore employers to provide employees with flexi-work offerings like part-time work, job-sharing, staggered work hours, shorter working week with fewer work days and telecommuting.

So far, more than 250 companies have already signed up to be a part of the scheme, employing some 210,000 employees in total. Some 20% of these, said the country’s Ministry of Manpower (MOM), are local small and medium-sized enterprises.

Co-developed by MOM, the National Trades Union Congress and the Singapore National Employers Federation, the main goal of the Tripartite Standard on Flexible Work Arrangements is to make it easier for all employees to enjoy such benefits.

Although many organisations provide flexible work options, some appeared to do so only on paper. MOM found that some employees who applied for flexible arrangements were either not evaluated fairly, or were turned down without alternative solutions being proposed.

It also said that many employees also expressed they were unaware of their options of even simply how to request for such benefits from their employers.

Companies who have adopted the latest standard are required to appoint a senior management member to champion flexible work options, while ensuring that employees are properly informed of the available offerings, how to apply, and alternative arrangements if the existing solutions are not applicable to their situations.

Line managers will also have to be trained to evaluate their employees’ needs fairly while setting realistic goals and targets for team members.  

If employees find that their employers are not upholding the standard, they can speak to the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices, which will then monitor the company and help it to improve.

This initiative has come at a time when there has been a greater push for more work-life balance and family time.

My Family Weekend, a nationwide movement promoting a more family-friendly environment with the involvement of the Singapore government, employers and community partners, for example, was launched last month.

Still, the standards are by no means an arbitrary regulation. As Second Minister for Manpower Josephine Teo said at the scheme’s launch, every entity has their own needs and what would work for them.

"We need to give companies some flexibility in how they design flexible work arrangements, so that they suit their employees' needs as well as their business operations,” said Teo. 

This scheme is the second in a series of guidelines that will be launched in the coming months. The first, The Tripartite Standard on Employment of Term Contract Employees, was launched in July this year. 

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