Closing remarks at Launch of the Tripartite Standard on Flexible Work Arrangements
Mrs Josephine Teo, Second Minister for Manpower, Feinmetall Singapore
Brother Douglas Foo, Vice-President of SNEF
Sister Thanaletchimi, NTUC Central Committee
Our host for today, Sam Chee Wah, General Manager of Feinmetall
All the participants of this learning journey
Colleagues and friends
- This week in Parliament, besides passing a new law on infrastructure protection, I responded to a few interesting questions. One was by Mr Louis Ng who wanted the government to provide funding to help companies hire temporary workers to provide relief for their staff who are pregnant, on maternity leave or have to take care of their infants. Some months back, Mr Ng also made a passionate speech about the challenges he faced as a parent of a pair of premature twins. He hoped that there can be better support for parents with premature or multiple births.
- Other MPs like Mr Desmond Choo have spoken in support of helping stay-at-home mothers return to the workforce. As a result of his advocacy, MOM and WSG is supporting the Returner Work Trial initiated by NTUC to provide funding to employers willing to give an opportunity to returner mums.
- Although the spotlight is often on working mums like Simin, they are not the only ones with care-giving or personal needs.
- Working dads such as Steven increasingly play an important part.
- Some employees may not have young children but they have to care for frail elderly parents such as taking them for medical appointments.
- Others may have friends or relatives who have suddenly taken ill, like Brenda.
- Sometimes, employee have special considerations like Benjamin who live further away, Yi Qing or Gail who are studying.
- So when we think of providing better support to employees' needs, let's keep in mind that there’s a variety.
- Many of these employees hope they don’t have to stop working in order to meet their family or personal commitments. But in order to keep working, they will need to have some flexibility in their work arrangements. It can be flexi-time, flexi-place or flexi-load.
- At the same time, employers have businesses to run. While we would like them to provide stronger support to their employees by offering flexible work arrangements, we should strike a careful balance and not overly- prescribe what they must do.
- We must recognise that businesses also have different needs and set ups, and blanket requirements may not work well. Put another way, we should give companies some flexibility in designing flexible work arrangements that suit their employees and their business operations. That's why the Work-Life grant does not specify the types of FWAs companies must implement. Instead, we let the companies propose what works best for them.
- I am happy to note that more than 1,200 companies have taken advantage of the Work-Life grant. Together, they employ some 86,000 people who stand to benefit from more flexibility in their work arrangements. There are of course, companies who offer FWAs without using the grant. However, not many of the companies that offer FWAs are known to the public. Jobseekers may not know that they offer such flexibility.
- In July, I launched the framework for Tripartite Standards, which is a way to raise the profile of progressive employers and draw jobseekers’ attention to them. Some employers are more progressive in how they handle term contract employees, others are more so in the way they handle employee grievances. We can have a different standard for each of these areas. Employers can decide which of these standards are more relevant to them.
- We have launched the Tripartite Standard for Term Contract Employees. Today, we will launch the second Tripartite Standard which is for Flexible Work Arrangements. When they sign up for this Standard, employers commit to implement FWAs effectively. How?
- First, they commit to appoint a member of the company’s senior management to champion FWAs. Successful implementation of progressive work practices often stems from strong leadership – FWAs are no exception. A strong champion helps to ensure that the necessary system is in place to implement FWAs effectively. This includes ensuring that the HR processes are in place and that supervisors are adequately trained.
- Second, the employers commit to inform employees about the types of FWAs they can request for, the process to do so and the employer’s expectations on the responsible use of FWAs. Based on our experience, many employees either did not know their employers offered FWAs or were unsure how to request for them. On the other hand, employers and supervisors were concerned that employees use FWAs irresponsibly. These two specifications will address both employers’ and employees’ concerns.
- Third, employers commit to communicating the outcomes of FWA applications in a timely manner and to document them properly. If a request for FWA cannot be granted, supervisors engage employees on the reasons and where possible, discuss suitable alternatives that better meet the needs of both employer and employee. This recognises that the employer may not be able to grant the request for FWAs due to work needs. At the same time, it assures employees that their supervisors will look into their need for some flexibility at work and try to find workable alternatives.
- Fourth, employers commit to train supervisors to objectively evaluate these applications and to appraise those on FWAs fairly. This will help address a key concern of employees that being on FWAs would affect their supervisor’s evaluation of their performance as well as their career prospects. It will assure them that their performance would be fairly assessed.
- I am happy to share that even before the launch, we have more than 250 employers who have signed on to this Standard as early adopters, including those in the Singapore Public Service. This means that 210,000 employees of these early adopters will be able to benefit from their employers’ progressive practices in implementing FWAs. We will continue to push for more to adopt the Standard.
- There is a perception that FWAs are difficult to implement, resource-intensive and thus more suitable for larger companies. However, companies like Feinmetall show that it can be done and they are not the only ones. I am particularly encouraged that about 1 in 5 of our early adopters are local SMEs.
- We have heard inspiring stories from Feinmetall employees on how FWAs helped them to balance both their work and personal commitments. At the same time, as an employer, Feinmetall also benefited in many ways. 6 months after their FWA pilot, productivity has increased, together with higher employee retention. Employee morale has also noticeably improved. In the eyes of employees, Feinmetall has become a more attractive employer. For example, Xu Ying shared earlier that she decided to join Feinmetall on a permanent basis due to her positive experience during her secondment with them.
- Finally, I would like to thank the employers who joined us for this learning journey. I hope you are inspired by today’s sharing and will apply the learning points back in your company. I encourage all of you to commit to implementing FWAs and adopting the Standard soon. As mentioned earlier, the tripartite partners have resources and support available for you to tap on such as TAFEP workshops and funding, in the form of the WorkPro Work-Life Grant.
- On this note, I would like to invite everyone to pick up the clappers you see in front of you. We want to give a hand to Sam and his team for their commitment to implement FWAs for their staff, and also give a hand to the companies which are about to embark on their own FWA journey!
- Way to go!