On 31 July 2017 and 6 October 2017, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) and the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) jointly released the Tripartite Standard on the Employment of Term Contract Employees and the Tripartite Standard on Flexible Work Arrangements respectively.
The Tripartite Standards reflect a growing awareness by the regulator and institutions of employee protection issues in an evolving manpower landscape where non-traditional staffing structures are increasingly being adopted. Even though the statutory position remains unchanged, the Tripartite Standards were introduced as a means to complement existing employment laws, tripartite guidelines and advisories. The Tripartite Standards, though not mandatory, are a set of progressive practices which are verifiable and are likely to set the tone and expectations with respect to workplace practices going forward.
These are the first two of a series of Tripartite Standards that will be rolled out successively in the months ahead, with more to come in 2018.
Specifications of the Tripartite Standards
Term Contract Employees
Employers are encouraged to provide term contract employees with the same level of protection as permanent employees with respect to paid leave benefits and notice period. Term contract employees are employees on fixed-term contracts of employment that will terminate upon the expiry of a specific term unless it is renewed.
Under the Tripartite Standards, all term contracts of service of 14 days or more, which are renewed within 1 month from the end of the previous contract, are treated as "continuous service" for the purpose of:
(a) computing/awarding leave benefits under the Employment Act (Cap. 91) and the Child Development Co-Savings Act (Cap. 38A) as permanent employees, which are: Annual Leave, Sick Leave, Maternity Leave, Paternity Leave, Adoption Leave, Childcare Leave and Extended Childcare Leave; and
(b) calculating minimum notice periods under the Employment Act.
Flexible Work Arrangements
The Tripartite Standards encourage employers to offer flexible work arrangements ("FWA"). FWAs include: (i) Flexi-load (e.g. part-time or job-sharing), (ii) Flexi-time (e.g. staggered hours and compressed work week), and (iii) Flexi-place (e.g. telecommuting).
Employees can request for FWAs offered by the company. They will be informed about the options available, the process to request for them, and the company's expectations on the responsible use of FWAs.
Under the Tripartite Standards, companies will appoint a member of the senior management to champion FWAs. Supervisors will also be trained to objectively evaluate employees' applications for FWA suitability and manage employees on FWAs fairly based on work performance.
Organisations which adopt the Tripartite Standards are likely to be viewed as fair and progressive employers and in turn be more successful in attracting and retaining talent. In fact, organisations which already provide their term contract employees with similar or more generous standards of employee benefits or offer their employees FWAs are encouraged to formally adopt the Tripartite Standards.
Quite apart from creating the tangible benefit of talent attraction and retention, the Tripartite Standards represent a gradual shift from the previous laissez faire approach in Singapore towards employee protection issues.