SINGAPORE — By 2024, employers must fairly and properly consider requests for flexible working arrangements from staff, under a new set of guidelines for such arrangements.
But employers can consider their business needs when evaluating whether or not to grant approval.
In the meantime, the government aims to increase uptake of a voluntary tripartite standard on flexible working arrangements by employers, currently covering 27 per cent of all employees, to 40 per cent by the end of this year.
It will continue to support efforts on the ground that promote work-life harmony and encourage greater use of parental leave, with the public service taking the lead.
In response to questions from the Straits Times, Minister of State for Manpower, Gan Siow Huang, said: “Flexible working arrangements or FWA will remain a key feature of our workplaces long after the end of the pandemic. It’s a win-win situation for employers and employees.”
She added: “FWAs benefit both women and men and will allow those with care responsibilities to continue working or return to work. This way, employers can access a larger pool of talent. FWAs will also help employers transform their businesses into futures-ready, as well as better attract and retain talent.”
Among employees aged 25-64 who needed an FWA, nine in 10 had access to the FWA they needed in 2020, up from six in 10 in 2014, the Singapore Women’s Development White Paper noted. which was released Monday, March 28.
Last year, 73% of companies that offered framework employment agreements said they were likely to continue to do so after the pandemic. Sixty-three percent said they were willing to allow employees who can work from home to keep practicing at least half the time.
The Tripartite Council on FWAs provides advice to businesses on how to implement such initiatives.
There are three sets of tripartite standards on Framework Agreements, Work-Life Balance and Unpaid Leave for Unforeseen Care Needs that recognize employers who voluntarily implement recommended practices.
The Alliance for Action (AfA) on Work-Life Harmony in 2021 rallied the community, employers and employees to take ownership of strengthening work-life harmony through community knowledge sharing of practice and the joint development of resources to support the implementation of work-life practices in the workplace.
The White Paper also proposes to enshrine in law the Tripartite Fair Employment Practices Guidelines (TGFEP).
The guidelines encourage employees who have experienced workplace discrimination and harassment to seek help, with assurances of confidentiality and protection against retaliation against them.
Workplaces are encouraged to put in place complaint handling processes and provide a fair and safe environment for reporting discrimination or harassment.
Ms. Gan said enshrining the TGFEP in law will send a stronger signal that unfair employment practices in all their forms, including against women, are not tolerated.
“With the legislation, we will expand the range of remedies and penalties, and we will have more effective enforcement,” she added. “However, we need to craft the legislation carefully, so that it provides greater protection and assurance to workers while guarding against a litigious work culture.”
Although it is rolling out legislation by the end of 2022 to tackle bad behavior at work, the government recognizes that mediation is still preferred to preserve a harmonious relationship between employer and employee.
Ms. Gan said the Tripartite Workplace Equity Committee has engaged extensively with different stakeholders and aims to share its recommendations later this year.
The government will also expand career mentoring, networking opportunities and training programs for working women and those re-entering the workforce.
These will complement the Workforce Singapore (WSG) suite of programs and services.
The Ministry of Manpower and the WSG will work with more partners, especially women’s organizations, to help more women find jobs and upskill.
In order to facilitate greater representation of women in leadership roles and overcome existing gender stereotypes, the Singapore Stock Exchange Listing Rules and the Corporate Governance Code Practice Guidelines have also been revised to improve the board diversity, including gender diversity, in listed companies.
The Council for Board Diversity will continue to lead efforts to increase the representation of women on boards.
This article was first published in The time of the straits. Permission required for reproduction.