News & Updates

Media Statement by the Singapore National Employers Federation on the Tripartite Guidelines for Flexible Work Arrangement Requests

23 April 2024 

TG provides guidance on the process and does not prescribe the outcome, which remains the prerogative of employers 

The Tripartite Guidelines on Flexible Work Arrangement Requests (TG-FWAR) will allow employees to put forward formal requests for Flexible Work Arrangements (FWA).   Employers will have to consider such requests properly, but will ultimately retain the final say on whether to accede to the request, taking into account possible business impact.  The TG-FWAR provides guidance on the process, and does not prescribe the outcome, which remain the prerogative of employers. 

Unlocking Workforce Potential

  1. Singapore’s labour market remains tight, with 174 job vacancies for every 100 job seekers in December 2023. The current reality is that Singapore is faced with an ageing population and workforce growth is slowing. With the introduction of the TG-FWAR, and with more employers offering various forms of FWAs, we hope to unlock our workforce potential by retaining and attracting more workers to stay in and to come back to the workforce respectively; these include segments of the workforce such as care-givers, young parents, as well as seniors to participate in the workforce.  
  2. Based on the Ministry of Manpower’s 2023 Labour Force Survey, close to a quarter of the 1.12 million residents that are outside the labour force cited housework and caregiving as reasons for not working. With an ageing population, the proportion of workers with caregiving responsibilities will also likely increase.  Providing some form of flexibility will allow these workers to better manage both their work and personal responsibilities.  Similarly, as we extend retirement and re-employment ages, individuals reaching retirement age may be prepared to continue working but perhaps on a reduced workload.  Being prepared to engage senior workers on a part-time basis, would allow employers to retain these workers that hold a wealth of experience.
  1. With a tight labour market, our ability to maintain and even unlock our workforce potential is critical, and is one of the main reasons for the TG-FWAR. Employers offering FWA will be able to access a wider talent and manpower pool. By offering proper avenues through which employees can request FWAs, employers will be able to retain productive employees who require flexibility in their work arrangements to continue working for them.

Maintaining Competitiveness and Productivity

 

  1. Even as employers consider the types of FWAs (flexi-place, flexi-time and flexi-load) that can be accommodated for the various job roles, it is clear that business competitiveness and productivity remain critical. For FWA to be sustainable, it must work for both the business and employees.  FWA requests that results in higher costs without the corresponding increase in productivity or improvement in business outcome will not be sustainable. Co-chair of the Tripartite Workgroup for FWAR, and SNEF Honorary Secretary, Edwin Ng shared that ‘’Building a company culture that strengthens cohesion, teamwork and collaboration amongst employees are important for employers.  This is how businesses innovate and maintain their competitiveness. Even as employers are encouraged to implement FWAs, be it flexi-time, flexi-load or flexi-place, we need to recognise that employers will also want to ensure that it does not ultimately lead to the disengagement of employees, or negatively impact company culture and productivity.’’

 

Upholding Workplace Harmony

  1. As the word ‘flexible’ suggests, it is about the readiness and ability to change so as to adapt to different circumstances. This applies to both employers and employees. The TG does not prescribe the types of FWAs that employers must implement, but rather, encourage employers to consider the various forms of flexible work arrangements that can work for them, and at the same time, meet the needs of their employees. Indeed, FWA extends beyond remote work, which will also not work for all job roles.
  1. Due to practical reasons and constraints, not all FWA requests can be acceded to. Notwithstanding, employers are encouraged to engage with their employees, to better understand their needs. Mutual trust and open communications between employers and employees are essential for both to find workable and sustainable work arrangements in order to achieve win-win outcomes. Employers with existing FWAs that have worked well for them and their employees, can and should continue with their existing FWA practices.

Equipping Employers with Resources to Implement the TG-FWAR

  1. The Tripartite Workgroup, which includes the Singapore Business Federation and the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises, has consulted with a range of stakeholders, both employers and employees before finalising the TG-FWAR. SNEF had also consulted our members, trade associations and business chambers as well human resource professionals to hear their views, and took a balanced approach in the development of the guidelines.
  1. Together with the launch of the TG-FWAR, SNEF will ramp up our efforts in guiding and sharing with employers through a series of training workshops and clinics on FWAs. Employers, especially those that currently do not practise FWAs, will be provided with tools, templates, resources, and playbook. Employers looking to formalise the process in accordance with the TG-FWAR can also approach SNEF for assistance.
  1. SNEF will also be organising an in-person briefing on the practical aspects of the TG-FWAR to our members on 2 May 2024 where employers can have their questions answered.

SNEF Supports the TG-FWAR

 

  1. SNEF fully endorses the TG-FWAR based on the following key principles:
  1. Employers have the prerogative to decide whether to accede to a FWA request;
  2. FWAs must not negatively impact the company, team and individual’s productivity and service quality;
  3. Not all roles and jobs are suitable for all forms of FWAs.
  1. Some quarters had advocated that the provision of FWAs should be legislated. We believe that the current approach of implementing a set of guidelines, is a more effective approach.  Guidelines give room for companies to build culture which we believe will be more effective and enduring. Legislation creates rigidity where decisions become more binary. It may cause friction and undermine the progressive workplace culture that we are trying to build. The guidelines have also been deliberately kept simple, so as to reduce administrative burden on employers. With the guidelines, which takes a more enabling and facilitative approach, SNEF is confident that the TG-FWAR will enable our labour market to remain flexible whilst encouraging more employers to offer FWA for a more inclusive and harmonious workplace.

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About Singapore National Employers Federation

The Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) is a trade union of employers. Our mission is to advance tripartism and enhance labour market flexibility to enable employers to implement responsible employment practices for sustainable growth. SNEF has a membership of over 3,600 companies with a combined workforce of over 850,000. For more information, please visit www.snef.org.sg