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Singapore's new guidelines on flexible work arrangement requests to take effect on 1 December 2024

Singapore's new guidelines on flexible work arrangement requests to take effect on 1 December 2024

Per the Tripartite Guidelines, employers are to properly consider FWA requests based on business grounds.

Singapore's Government has accepted all 10 recommendations by the Tripartite Workgroup on the Tripartite Guidelines on Flexible Work Arrangement (FWA) Requests. In an effort to shape the right norms and expectations around FWAs, the recommendations set out how employees should request formal FWAs and use them, and how employers and supervisors should handle FWA requests.

From 1 December 2024, all employers are expected to abide by the following:

Recommendation one

The Tripartite Guidelines on Flexible Work Arrangement Requests (TG-FWAR) should establish a clear set of workplace norms around requesting FWAs and considering FWA requests. This will better manage employees’ and employers’ expectations on the process and their respective obligations. These guidelines set out the minimum requirements, and do not preclude employers from adopting more progressive practices.

Recommendation two

The TG-FWAR should guide the process of requesting and considering FWAs, and not the outcome of FWA requests.

Recommendation three

The TG-FWAR should require employers to properly consider FWA requests based on business grounds, and employees to request and use FWAs responsibly.

Recommendation four

The TG-FWAR should only apply to formal FWA requests. Formal requests may be defined as requests that are documented and that contain the information needed for the employer make an informed decision.

Recommendation five

The TG-FWAR should cover all employees who have completed probation, the duration of which may be determined by employers.

Recommendation six

The TG-FWAR should not require employers to consider FWA requests from jobseekers. However, employers could still state their FWA approach or policy in job advertisements and interviews, to manage jobseekers’ expectations on the FWAs they can provide.

Recommendation seven

The TG-FWAR should cover all employers, including small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Guides and templates should be provided to help all employers comply.

Recommendation eight

Adopt an educational and enabling approach to implementing the TG-FWAR, with a focus on equipping employees and employers with the resources and skills to make and properly consider FWA requests respectively.

Recommendation nine

Strengthen communications and engagement to help employers understand how FWAs can help their businesses and raise awareness of the types of FWAs available. This builds on the progressive practices that were promoted under the Tripartite Advisory and Tripartite Standard on FWAs, which will be replaced by the TG-FWAR and its accompanying resource package.

Recommendation 10

Provide greater support for employers to build and invest in critical FWA implementation capabilities. Resources and training to build capabilities on FWAs should be scaled up in partnership with key business and employee associations and unions. Resources should be customised to cater for different firm sizes, sectors, and nature of work.

According to the Ministry of Manpower, these guidelines are aimed at making it easier for employees to request for FWAs, while acknowledging that employers continue to have the prerogative to decide on work arrangements. "The Public Service will continue to champion FWAs and adopt the principles outlined in the Guidelines", the Ministry said.

Speaking on the guidelines Gan Siow Huang, Minister of State for Manpower, and co-chair of the Tripartite Workgroup, said: "Flexible work arrangements can be beneficial for both employees and employers. They enable employees to achieve better work-life harmony, and give employers a competitive advantage in talent attraction and retention.

"To reap these benefits, FWAs must be implemented on the basis of trust and mutual understanding between employer and employee. The Tripartite Guidelines on flexible work arrangement requests will shape norms and expectations around FWAs so that our workplaces can be more inclusive and productive.”

Edwin Ng, SNEF Honorary Secretary, Singapore National Employers Federation, and co-chair of the Tripartite Workgroup, added: "While more employers have implemented FWAs, there may be specific needs of an individual employee which may not be covered by his or her employer’s FWA policy. As such, the Tripartite Guidelines on FWA requests will guide employees to make requests for FWAs responsibly and help employers assess such requests properly.”

Yeo Wan Ling, Assistant Secretary-General and Director, U Women and Family and U SME, National Trades Union Congress, also co-chair of the Tripartite Workgroup, further acknowledged how access to FWAs is often the main consideration for caregivers, women workers, and senior workers when it comes to deciding to stay or return to the workforce.

Background on the TG-FWAR

To develop the set of guidelines for FWA requests, the Tripartite Workgroup convened in September 2023. Following consultations with a range of stakeholders – including employees, employers, and human resource professionals – all parties agreed that communication and trust between employers and employees are necessary for FWAs to be effective and sustainable.

With this in mind, the guidelines were developed with the aim to establish how formal FWA requests should be made, how employers should consider such requests in a proper manner, and the requirement to communicate decisions on such requests in a transparent and timely manner.

To maintain a harmonious workplace culture, based on trust and reciprocity, the Tripartite Workgroup has recommended taking an enabling and educational approach in implementing the Guidelines. This includes equipping employees and employers with the resources and skills to make and properly consider FWA requests.

Employees have been urged to seek assistance from the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices should employers not adhere to the requirements in the Guidelines.

Lead image / Singapore Ministry of Manpower Facebook

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