Oral Answer by Minister of State Gan Siow Huang to PQ on Sustaining FWAs beyond SMMs
NOTICE PAPER NO. 1130 OF 2022 FOR THE SITTING ON 9 MAY 2022 QUESTION NO. 2873 FOR ORAL ANSWER
MP: Dr Wan Rizal
To ask the Minister for Manpower with regard to the easing of safe management measures (SMM) and workers returning to their workplace, whether there are plans
by the Ministry to go beyond encouraging employers to retain and promote flexible work arrangements, such as telecommuting and staggered work hours, as a
permanent feature of the workplace.
1. Even as we continue to ease safe management measures at the workplace, flexible work arrangements (FWAs) remain relevant and important to businesses.
Many employers see the value of retaining FWAs as it not only strengthens business resilience, but also improves talent retention and attraction. 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. 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.
2. Tripartite Partners agree that employers should sustain and promote FWAs as a permanent feature of the workplace and 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.
3. Over the next few years, 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. We will also partner our Work-Life Ambassadors on the ground to advocate for and support the
implementation of FWAs. As laid out in the White Paper on Singapore Women’s Development, we will also bring more companies onboard the voluntary Tripartite
Standard on FWAs so that more companies adopt best practices in FWA implementation. This 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.
4. 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.