News & Updates

Forum: Communication and trust more important to implementing FWA successfully

We refer to the letter “Legislate flexiwork if guidelines fail to spur change” (May 4) by Ms Sugidha Nithi of Aware.

Flexible work arrangements (FWAs) have become more prevalent in Singapore. The proportion of employers that implemented at least one type of FWA increased from 53 per cent in 2019 to 68 per cent in 2023, according to the Ministry of Manpower. However, even as more employers implement FWAs, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to meet the varying needs of different employees. Some employees may need flexi-load or flexi-place, while others may need flexi-time, depending on their circumstances.

When considering such requests, employers also need to consider the impact on co-workers, business and customers. Each request also has to be considered on a case-by-case basis. For example, if a retail store has two employees and one has requested to work the afternoon shift, the employer would not be able to accommodate a request from the second employee to also work only in the afternoon. 

The tripartite work group which went to study countries with legislation on FWA requests such as Australia and New Zealand learnt that most requests are made and discussed in a non-formal manner. Instead, the real enablers are a supportive workplace culture and norms surrounding FWAs and resources to help employers implement FWAs.

While the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) agrees that FWA is a good employment practice, legislation is inappropriate and may lead to a more litigious workplace culture. Instead, communication and trust between employees and employers are more important to ensure that FWAs can be implemented successfully and sustainably. While employees will request FWAs that meet their needs, these must also work for employers to be sustainable.

The Tripartite Guidelines on FWA Requests will guide employees to make FWA requests responsibly and employers to assess each request properly. Even if employers cannot accede to any request, there will be better communication with their employees to maintain workplace relations. 

On our part, SNEF will continue to work with our tripartite partners to help employers implement FWAs to attract and retain workers and enable their employees to be more focused and productive at work.

 

Sim Gim Guan
Executive Director
Singapore National Employers Federation