Oral Answer to PQ on Future of Hybrid Work and Flexible Work Arrangements
NOTICE PAPER NO. 864 OF 2021 FOR THE SITTING ON OR AFTER 11 JANUARY 2022
QUESTION NO. 2175 FOR ORAL ANSWER
MP: Mr Yip Hong Weng
To ask the Minister for Manpower (a) whether the Ministry keeps track of the number of employees with remote working arrangements and the number of hours spent working remotely in the past year; (b) whether work-from-home (WFH) will become a permanent feature even as COVID-19 restrictions are relaxed; and (c) whether the Ministry will look into introducing new legislation to improve the welfare of WFH employees including barring employers from contacting employees about non-critical work matters outside of their contracted working hours.
NOTICE PAPER NO. 865 OF 2021 FOR THE SITTING ON OR AFTER 11 JANUARY 2022
QUESTION NO. 2179 FOR ORAL ANSWER
MP: Mr Yip Hong Weng
To ask the Minister for Manpower as companies are encouraged to operate in a hybrid operating model to boost business resilience (a) how will the Ministry support employers to help their employees transit towards this model; and (b) how will the Government encourage organisational dexterity in local companies so that work projects based overseas can be managed remotely from Singapore.
NOTICE PAPER NO. 875 OF 2021 FOR THE SITTING ON OR AFTER 11 JANUARY 2022
QUESTION NO. 2216 FOR ORAL ANSWER
MP: Mr Louis Ng Kok Kwang
To ask the Minister for Manpower whether, beyond the Tripartite Standards or Tripartite Guidelines, the Ministry intends to retain existing work from home legislation and make the right to work from home the new normal.
1. COVID-19 has catalysed a transformation of workplace practices. Businesses have adapted well and successfully implemented work-from-home arrangements. SMEs can also tap on Government grants, such as the Productivity Solution Grant, to adopt suitable cloud-based digital solutions that can enable productive remote work arrangements for their employees.
2. In 2020, 3 in 4 employees worked in firms that provided some form of remote working. The number of hours spent on remote work would vary depending on businesses’ and workers’ needs, and MOM does not track this.
3. We expect work-from-home arrangements to become a more mainstream option. Majority of employers said that they would allow their workers to continue to work-from-home for at least a quarter of the time. We should not rush into hasty legislation that creates workplace rigidity and impede our economic recovery.
4. Our approach for workplace flexibility should also be inclusive. This was highlighted by the 2019 Citizens’ Panel on Work-Life Harmony that different sectors will have diverse needs, such as the needs of frontline workers differing significantly from office workers. For example, work-from-home is not possible for work that frontline workers perform. It is therefore more critical that a whole of society approach be taken, to help more workers to access appropriate workplace flexibilities, including flexi-load, flexi-time to flexi-place. This is what the tripartite partners are doing, through outreach and promotion of the Tripartite Advisory and Standard on Flexible Work Arrangements. We had also formed the Alliance for Action on Work-Life Harmony (AfA on WLH) last year, involving community stakeholders such as employers, employees, and HR professionals. The AfA created three Communities of Practice (CoP) for the Food Services, Manufacturing and Finance sectors respectively, to exchange best practices and develop implementation resources that were suited to companies’ sectoral needs. For example, CoP panellists shared how staggered hours could still be offered to onsite production staff who required them to flexibly manage their personal responsibilities, such as childcare. The HR profession through the Institute of Human Resource Professionals also came together to develop a Playbook on Hybrid Workplaces. We are continuing this ground-up effort by growing a community Work-Life Ambassadors to champion and support these efforts at their workplaces.
5. Even as work-from-home arrangements stabilise, we are mindful of the risks from blurred work-life boundaries. The Tripartite Advisory on Mental Well-being was introduced in 2020, and one of the key recommendations was for employers to set reasonable expectations of after-hours work communications, such as not requiring employees to respond to non-urgent work-related messages and emails after-hours. The AfA on Work-Life Harmony also developed an after-hours communication policy template to make it easier for companies to establish and communicate progressive after-hours communications practices.
6. The Government will continue to work with Tripartite Partners to support the provision of flexible work arrangements in a sustainable manner.