Overview

The Ministry of Manpower, National Trades Union Congress, and the Singapore National Employers Federation jointly released on 6 October 2017 new Tripartite Standards on Flexible Work Arrangements (“FWAs”).

The Tripartite Standards on FWAs are not mandatory but the adoption can allow employers to distinguish themselves in key employment practices that employees would look for, thereby enhancing the employer's ability to attract and retain employees. The Tripartite Standards on FWAs can also be particularly useful for employers when handling back-to-work individuals.

The key purpose of FWAs is aimed at creating a supportive and conducive work environment, which in turn may mean that employees can become more productive and achieve good work and personal outcomes. The Tripartite Standards on FWAs are intended to provide a framework for employers to implement FWAs for their employees.

The Tripartite Standards on FWAs suggest taking the following steps to fully adopt the Standards:

 Appointing a senior management personnel to champion FWAs.

 Offering FWAs to employees.

 Creating a channel in which employees may request for FWAs.

 Communicating the outcomes of applications for FWAs to employees in a timely manner, and documenting such outcomes.

 Discussing with employees suitable alternatives that better meet the needs of both employee and employer.

 Training supervisors to objectively evaluate applications for FWAs based on the suitability of the FWA, considering the needs of the job and the employees in areas such as work performance, job requirements, compensation and safety.

 Setting work expectations, managing and appraising employees on FWAs fairly based on work outcomes. 2 

Types of FWAs

The Tripartite Standards on FWAs also set out examples of the different types of FWAs which an employee and employer may consider:

Flexible time: staggered hours and compressed work week.

Flexible place: telecommuting (i.e. working from home or satellite offices).

Flexible load: job sharing and varying work loads.

Trends with FWAs

Based on our experience, employers have increasingly been rolling out FWA policies as they recognise that the employees of today are more mobile and independent. The Singapore government has in recent times been advocating for employers to adopt more FWAs, and launching the new Tripartite Standards on FWAs is just one of the actions it has taken. Other initiatives that the Singapore government has launched include the Work-Life Grant which provides funding and incentives for companies to offer FWAs for employees. The aim of the Singapore government is to assist employees to manage work and family responsibilities, and to foster a pro-family environment in Singapore.

Conclusion

While it is not mandatory to adopt the Tripartite Standards on the FWAs, it does provide a framework for verifiable and actionable practices that an employer may wish to consider implementing for several reasons, including promoting a better work-life balance for employees where possible in line with the market practice trends, gradually re-introducing back-to-work employees who have been away on extended leaves of absence, or recognising progressive work practices of the modern society in general given the technology we have to connect to work without having to be physically present in an office.