Total Rewards Asia Summit 2024 Singapore
Guide to Singapore's new Tripartite Guidelines on Flexible Work Arrangement Requests
  • sponsored

Guide to Singapore's new Tripartite Guidelines on Flexible Work Arrangement Requests

These Guidelines set the minimum requirements that all employers are to abide by and recommend other good practices for employers to consider in relation to formal FWA requests. Tripartite Alliance for Fair & Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP) takes us through the key points to note.

Come 1 December 2024, employers are expected to abide by the Tripartite Guidelines on Flexible Work Arrangement (FWA) Requests. The mandatory Guidelines, which were recently launched on 16 April 2024, will help shape the right norms and expectations around FWAs. They set out how employees should request for FWAs and use them, as well as how employers and supervisors should handle FWA requests.

These Guidelines set the minimum requirements that all employers are required to abide by and recommend other good practices for employers to consider in relation to formal FWA requests.

What are the key areas to note under the Tripartite Guidelines on Flexible Work Arrangement Requests (TG-FWAR)?

  • When requesting and using FWAs, employees should do so responsibly, taking into consideration the impact on their workload and performance, as well as the impact on their team and clients, where relevant to their job role.
  • Where reasonably practical, employers should explore ways to accommodate FWA requests.
  • FWA requests should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis and need to be viable from the business point of view. 

What do employers need to know about their TG-FWAR obligations?

Under the TG-FWAR, all employers will need to: 

  • Implement a process to manage formal FWA requests from employees.
  • Communicate the process of submission and management of these requests.
  • Provide a timely response to formal FWA requests.
  • While it is an employer’s prerogative to approve or reject FWA requests, rejections should be based on reasonable business grounds.
  • Discuss alternatives with the relevant employee if the FWA request is rejected.
  • Use internal grievance handling processes to manage concerns and grievances if they arise.

What is considered a formal FWA request?

Under the TG-FWAR, employers are required to adopt a process for the submission and management of formal FWA requests, to harness the advantages of FWAs for your workforce and organisation. This process should inform employees of the information that should be included in a formal written FWA request, such as:   

  • The date of the request
  • The FWA requested for, including its expected frequency and duration
  • Reason for the FWA request
  • Requested start date and end date (if relevant)

For greater efficiency, employers may provide a form/template for employees to fill in the key details required for a formal FWA request (you may also refer to this link for a FWA Request Form template).

Some employers may have an existing effective process in place to manage FWA requests. If you already engage in discussions when employees make FWA requests, these formal and non-formal practices should continue if they work well.

In particular, you should review your formal FWA request and management process, to ensure it is aligned with the TG-FWAR.

If you do not have any existing process, you will still need to properly consider and respond to a formal FWA request, as stated in the Tripartite Guidelines. 

How should employers engage employees on their FWA requests?

Both employers and employees are encouraged to discuss FWA requests in an open and constructive manner and come to a mutual agreement on how best to meet the needs of the organisation and employee.

As part of this discussion, employers are encouraged to consider the time sensitivity of the request. For example, urgent ad hoc requests may require a more immediate response, while more long-term FWA requests may require a deeper discussion between employer and employee. 

How should employers properly consider FWA requests?

When considering an employee’s FWA request, you should focus on the factors related to the employee’s job including:

  • Impact on the business/organisation (e.g., impact on business operations, employee’s working conditions such as compensation, benefits, and safety)
  • Impact on the employee’s performance of the job (e.g., performance expectations and assessment, suitability of the employee, needs of the job role)

Employers may reject employees’ FWA requests only on reasonable business grounds.

Some examples of reasonable business grounds for rejection of FWAs are that the arrangements may: 

  • Lead to significant increase in cost burden to the employer.
  • Be detrimental to productivity or output, e.g., lead to a significant decrease in the quantity or quality of individual, team or organisational productivity or output, or negatively impact the organisation’s ability to meet customer needs.
  • Not be feasible or impractical due to nature of the job role, or there is no capacity to change other employees’ work arrangements or requires the need to hire new employees to accommodate the FWA request.

Employers should not reject FWA requests for reasons that are not directly linked to business outcomes. Some examples of unreasonable business grounds for rejection of FWAs are:

  • Management does not believe in FWAs.
  • Supervisor prefers to have direct sight of employee in office to see if they are working, despite employee’s consistent satisfactory work performance.
  • Organisation’s norm is to not offer FWAs (e.g., staff have always been required to be in office during regular office hours, and organisation does not want to agree to FWA request in case other employees may make similar requests).

When should employers communicate their decision on formal FWA requests?

Employers who receive a formal FWA request should provide a written decision to the employee within two months from receiving the request (You may refer to the Template Employer Response Form from the TG-FWAR here). If the request is rejected, employers should include the reason for rejection in the written decision and are also encouraged to discuss alternatives with the employee.

How should employers address concerns when mutual understanding cannot be reached?

If an employee feels that his/her request may be better resolved through other channels, this should be addressed through the organisation’s internal grievance handling procedure as far as possible. Employers may refer to Information and Resources on Grievance Handling to put in place proper policies and processes to manage queries/concerns regarding FWA requests.

The TG-FWAR helps to shape norms and expectations around FWAs. For FWAs to be implemented effectively and sustainably, employers and employees must continue to play their roles in building a workplace culture of trust and mutual understanding. This enables employees to give their best at work and at home and allows business to harness the full potential of their workforce, making FWAs a win-win for all.

TAFEP provides information and resources to help employers and HR professionals keep abreast of HR best practices. Visit tafep.sg to find out more.


READ MORE: HRadiO: How HR professionals should prepare for the upcoming Workplace Fairness Legislation (WFL) in Singapore

Lead image / 123RF

Follow us on Telegram and on Instagram @humanresourcesonline for all the latest HR and manpower news from around the region!

Free newsletter

Get the daily lowdown on Asia's top Human Resources stories.

We break down the big and messy topics of the day so you're updated on the most important developments in Asia's Human Resources development – for free.

subscribe now open in new window