PARLIAMENT

Govt aims to make flexi-work commonplace: Swee Say

Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say said the Government's challenge is to help more women stay at work and to help those who have left work to return, especially mothers.
Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say said the Government's challenge is to help more women stay at work and to help those who have left work to return, especially mothers.ST FILE PHOTO

Employers should assess employees fairly based on performance, regardless of the flexible work arrangements they are on, said Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say.

In Parliament yesterday, he added that the Government wants to grow the community of progressive employers and make flexible work practices commonplace.

Mr Lim cited Shell, DBS and KPMG as positive examples of companies which provide a conducive and supportive environment for their female employees.

But more can be done to improve human resource practices for fair treatment, regardless of gender, he said near the close of the two-day debate on supporting women's aspirations.

Eighteen MPs spoke on the challenges faced by women today, and gave suggestions on how to help them cope with juggling duties at home and at work.

"Women should not have to choose between family and career," said Mr Lim, adding that the Government should support them to fulfil their aspirations in both areas.

Two key suggestions from the MPs stood out: providing more flexible work arrangements, and introducing automatic Central Provident Fund transfers between spouses. Such transfers would strengthen the retirement adequacy of women who stopped working and have little savings of their own, said the MPs.

The employment rate of women aged 25 to 64 has increased steadily from 63 per cent 10 years ago to 72 per cent last year, noted Mr Lim.

But the female employment rate peaks at the age of 25 to 29, and declines after that.

Mr Lim said the Government's challenge is to help more women stay at work and to help those who have left work to return, especially mothers.

One way it will do so is by supporting the labour movement's "returnship programme", similar to internships. Under it, women and their employers can try out the work arrangement for a few months before formal employment and training.

The Government will also encourage companies to offer more part-time and job-sharing arrangements for women not ready to return to work fully.

In addition, it is helping workers learn new skills and be adaptable, which will benefit women who have taken a career break due to family obligations.

On CPF savings, Mr Lim said the Government will not mandate transfers between spouses as this is too intrusive. As such transfers are personal decisions, he said the Government chose to relax the rules for spousal transfers instead.

As a result, such transfers increased by 70 per cent last year and totalled $110 million, double the amount from the year before.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 05, 2017, with the headline 'Govt aims to make flexi-work commonplace: Swee Say'. Print Edition | Subscribe