Flexible work arrangements should be permanent feature of the workplace: Gan Siow Huang

The government and its tripartite partners will be working with employers to support training toward the implementation of such arrangements.

Jane Zhang | May 09, 2022, 05:35 PM

Follow us on Telegram for the latest updates: https://t.me/mothershipsg

Since the lowering of Singapore's Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (DORSCON) level from Orange to Yellow from April 26, all employees have been able to return the workplace, up from the 75 per cent cap previously due to the pandemic situation.

However, does that mean that employers should scrap all of the flexible work arrangements that were put in place over the past two years and mandate that all of their employees return to the office?

In Parliament on Monday (May 9), Minister of State for Manpower Gan Siow Huang said that the government and its tripartite partners feel that flexible work arrangements should continue to be a permanent feature of the workplace, and will be working with employers to support training toward the implementation of such arrangements.

Flexible workplace arrangements remain relevant

Even as the safe management measures at workplaces continue to be eased, Gan said, flexible arrangements continue to be relevant to businesses, as many employers see value in retaining such arrangements in order to strengthen business resilience and improve talent retention and recruitment.

Gan cited the Institute of Police Studies' recently-published study on workplace arrangements, which found that eight in 10 respondents who worked from home either most or all the time felt that they were productive doing so.

She added that the Ministry of Manpower's surveys have shown that the majority of employers are keen on continuing flexible work arrangements even after the Covid-19 pandemic ends, due to the benefits they bring to both employers and employees.

"Tripartite partners agree that employers should sustain flexible work arrangements as a permanent feature of the workplace," Gan stated, adding that a tripartite statement was released in April to encourage employers to continue doing so.

Support and training for companies

"For the provision of flexible work arrangements to be a sustainable and effective permanent measure," Gan said, "employers will need sufficient time and support to find right calibration that works best for the employees while meeting business needs."

This is because businesses' needs vary across industries and jobs, and different employees also have their own differing needs for flexible work arrangements.

Over the next few years, then, the tripartite partners will strengthen training to equip companies with the knowledge of how to implement flexible work arrangements "in a win-win and sustainable manner", stated Gan.

These include in areas such as human resources and job redesign.

In addition, the tripartite partners will work with work-life ambassadors to support the implementation of flexible work arrangements.

Employers will need to consider flexible work arrangement requests fairly and properly

Gan also referred to measures laid out in the White Paper on Singapore Women's Development which aim to allow more women to participate more fully in the workforce.

One of the measures will be to introduce a new set of Tripartite Guidelines on flexible work arrangements by 2024, which will require employers to consider employees' requests for such arrangements fairly and properly.

"This means having a clear policy on how to request flexible work arrangements and managing employees' expectations on its responsible use, timely communication of outcomes of flexible work arrangement requests, as well as fair and objective evaluation of employees' flexible work arrangement requests."

"The public service has taken the lead to adopt the tripartite standard on flexible work arrangements," Gan stated.

The government also aims to bring more companies onboard in adopting the voluntary Tripartite Standard on flexible work arrangements, she said.

Currently 27 per cent of employees are covered, and the aim is to increase that percentage to 40 per cent by the end of 2022.

"Altogether, these efforts will establish the norm that it is acceptable to request for flexible work arrangements while maintaining employers' prerogative to assess and decide on flexible work arrangement requests based on the business and operational needs."

Read our writer's open letter to employers about maintaining flexible arrangements here:

Top photos via CNA and Unsplash/LYCS Architecture. 

Follow and listen to our podcast here