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NTUC wants more companies to adopt family-friendly practices

Only some 15 per cent of about 1,500 unionised companies here offer comprehensive family-friendly workplace practices, and the labour movement wants more companies to come on board.

SINGAPORE: Only some 15 per cent of about 1,500 unionised companies here offer comprehensive family-friendly workplace practices, and the labour movement wants more companies to come on board.

On Thursday, the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) issued guidelines for companies to measure where they are at in terms of family-friendly practices at the workplace.

The aim is to have half of unionised companies in Singapore to reach the top end of the scale for family-friendly practices by 2015. 

The guidelines, known as the Family-Friendly Workplace criteria, was introduced as a benchmark for companies.

At the very basic level, companies should offer provision for flexible work arrangements.

Companies should also offer access to family-care leave, and at the top end of the scale, should provide facilities like childcare centres as well as career progression pathways for workers on flexible work arrangements.

As an added push, NTUC wants those criteria worked into the Collective Agreements with unionised companies.

The guidelines are issued as NTUC released results of the Happiness Poll on Thursday, which measures the state of happiness among workers in Singapore.

According to a poll of over 5,000 respondents by the labour movement, 70 per cent of respondents are happy with their workplace.

The top reasons for that are relationships with co-workers and access to family leave schemes.

The poll also showed that it is important for working mothers and fathers to have a family-friendly workplace culture.

Director of NTUC U Family Toh Hwee Tin said: "It's not going to be easy, but we are trying our best, and we hope that half of unionised companies would adopt this by 2015. But to do this, we need the support of employers, the support of government and businesses."

She added that workplaces should be family-friendly not just to young parents, but also to those who need to take care of the elderly.

This is because family-friendly practices at the workplace, she said, are not just the privilege of working mothers, but all workers.

Andrea Lau, a management trainee at Auric Pacific, said she is a happy worker, and gets along relatively well with her colleagues.

But she said her employers are also family-friendly -- for example, she has three days of unconditional family-care leave.

"I can use it to take care of my parents, maybe bring them to the hospital,” she said.

Andrea can also opt to work on flexi-terms and still progress within the company.

Her employer said it makes business sense to do so.

"It is pretty apparent that in Singapore, we face a shortage of local talent -- we are not peculiar to this phenomenon, and as such, we have to be flexible in the ways that we obtain our employees.

“We're talking about multi-generational employees, and we have schemes to take care of retired employees, right up to the production workers on the factory floor.

“These flexi-work arrangements will not hinder their progression, because we do need these employees to be with us and understand that they have a career with this group,” said Phan Yoke Fei, head of group human resources and administration at Auric Pacific.

Moving forward, the labour movement wants the Tripartite Guidelines for Family-Friendly Workplaces to also cover caregivers.

It said that for too long, those guidelines have focused mainly on families with young children.

However, with Singapore's ageing population and the growing number of singles here, the labour movement said working caregivers should also be taken care of. 

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