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Companies encouraged to have permanent flexible work arrangements, public service to take the lead

Companies encouraged to have permanent flexible work arrangements, public service to take the lead
File photo of man working from home. (Photo: iStock/staticnak1983)

SINGAPORE: Employers are encouraged to permanently offer flexible work arrangements even though COVID-19 workplace restrictions will be relaxed from Apr 26.

That was the call from the tripartite partners - the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) and the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF).

They noted that flexible work arrangements have strengthened the resilience of workplaces during the COVID-19 pandemic, adding that globally, employers increasingly embrace such arrangements as part of the future of work.

"Employers are strongly encouraged to continue offering FWAs (flexible work arrangements) to employees, and to promote FWAs as a permanent feature of the workplace," said the tripartite partners in a statement on Friday (Apr 22).

"FWAs help employees achieve better work-life harmony and promote a more engaged and productive workforce," they said. 

"Employers who offer FWAs will also benefit from talent attraction and retention. In addition, these employers will be able to tap on a larger pool of manpower, such as caregivers and seniors, who might otherwise not be able to remain in or join the workforce."

Singapore on Friday announced a major easing of various COVID-19 measures. These include allowing all employees to return to the workplace from Apr 26, an increase from the current limit of 75 per cent of those who can work from home.

KEY RECOMMENDATIONS

Detailing their recommendations, the tripartite partners said employers should continue to make efforts to provide flexibility for workers, including redesigning jobs where needed, while taking into consideration business needs.

They added that employers should continue to manage, assess, appraise and remunerate employees who use such arrangements "fairly and objectively", in line with the Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices.

Employees, meanwhile, should use flexible work arrangements responsibly and "ensure continued work productivity", said the tripartite partners.

"FWAs are not an entitlement and the requirements of the job take precedence," they added.

"Trust should also be maintained between employers and employees, through regular and open communication to discuss on what FWAs are practical and sustainable, and the organisational outcomes and deliverables that need to be met."

MOM, NTUC and SNEF also encouraged companies to allow their employees to telecommute.

"Employers may require employees to report to the office for meetings and to foster team collaboration, while permitting telecommuting for tasks that do not need to be done onsite," they suggested.

Ad-hoc or partial telecommuting are among the arrangements that can be considered, they added. 

Firms can also consider redesigning workspaces to leverage more satellite offices or co-working spaces, to enable employees to work closer to home, said the tripartite partners.

Besides telecommuting, other arrangements - such as flexi-time and flexi-load - continue to be important, as not all employees can telecommute, they stated.

"For example, frontline employees who are not able to telecommute may benefit from other FWAs such as part-time work and ad-hoc time-off from work, to better manage personal or family responsibilities while still contributing effectively at work." 

PUBLIC SERVICE TO TAKE THE LEAD

The public service will take the lead in making flexible work arrangements permanent, said MOM, NTUC and SNEF.

"All public agencies have adopted the tripartite standard on FWAs," they said. 

"Eligible public officers in job roles which are conducive to hybrid work will be allowed to telecommute for an average of two days a week. The public service will also seek to develop new supervisory skills in terms of managing teams effectively in a hybrid work environment," they added.

Noting that not all workplaces may be ready to implement flexible work arrangements to the same extent, the tripartite partners said they will work to support employers and employees in their efforts. 

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Source: CNA/az(gs)

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