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Clarifying Singapore's FWA requests guidelines: What to do if an employee escalates a rejected request to TAFEP

Clarifying Singapore's FWA requests guidelines: What to do if an employee escalates a rejected request to TAFEP

"HR and supervisors play an important role in clearly communicating the rationale behind each decision, not only to the employee who makes the FWA request but also to coworkers who may be affected", the Ministry of Manpower said.

In light of Singapore's upcoming Tripartite Guidelines on Flexible Work Arrangement Requests, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has advised employers on the procedure follow if an employee escalates their rejected FWA request to the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP).   

As a basis, MOM encourages employers and employees to resolve disagreements on FWAs internally, and unionised employees can consult their unions for advice.

In the instance an employee is unable to resolve disagreements internally, they may approach TAFEP for assistance. As clarified, TAFEP will only intervene for cases where the employer did not consider and respond to the FWA request properly — e.g., rejected the FWA request without business grounds.

MOM has also clarified whether employers are expected to provide the same FWA for all their employees. As highlighted by the ministry, employers are encouraged to decide on the type of FWAs that is sustainable for the business and the job scope of the employee, since not all types of FWAs are suitable for every job.

Further, recognising that it may not be possible for all employees to be on the same type of FWA, MOM said that in evaluating FWA requests, employers need to consider the impact on other co-workers, the business, and their clients. For example, employees required onsite will not be able to work from home due to the job nature, and not all employees might be able to have the same shift patterns. 

In any event, employers can customise their approach and consider other suitable types of FWAs for such workers.

"Ultimately, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to implementing FWAs", MOM affirmed.

Lastly, MOM urges employers and employees to have constructive conversations about what type of FWAs works well for the team and for the business. 

In addition to the above, the ministry shared responses to a couple more commonly asked questions on the upcoming Tripartite Guidelines on Flexible Work Arrangement Requests.

Q Do employers still need to consider formal requests for FWAs if there is already an existing process?

In the event of an already existing process — formal or informal — that works well for both employers and employees, MOM has affirmed that employees should use the process stipulated by the company to request to work on an FWA.

The upcoming guidelines would be useful mainly for organisations that do not have any process yet for their employees to request FWAs, or for employees who have gone through the informal process but feel that their employer had not considered their request properly yet through that route.

Q Are employers liable for work injury compensation if an employee gets injured while working from home?

If an employee gets injured while working from home, the Work Injury Compensation Act allows employees to make claims as long as the injuries arise out of and in the course of work, whether they are working in an office, at home, or off-site. The basis for determining claim validity is consistent across all work injury claims.

Q Can employers take disciplinary action against employees who have breached company policies on FWAs?

In the event an employee has breached company policies on FWAs, employers can take action based on the process for handling cases of misconduct, which remains the same regardless of whether the employee is on a flexible arrangement. Employers must conduct a formal inquiry before taking disciplinary action, which is already the case today for all cases of misconduct.

Q How should employers appraise employees on flexible work arrangements?

MOM has asserted that employee performance should be assessed objectively based on the actual work outcomes delivered and achieved, to help ensure fair and effective evaluations.

"HR and supervisors play an important role in clearly communicating the rationale behind each decision, not only to the employee who makes the FWA request but also coworkers who may be affected.

"HR and supervisors should ensure that everyone feels valued, even if they are not treated in exactly the same way. Employers who are able to do so will benefit from better employee engagement and retention."


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Lead image / Ministry of Manpower LinkedIn

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