250 companies adopt new standard on flexi-work arrangements

The new tripartite standard specifies that a member of the company's senior management will champion flexi-work arrangements, and there should be good communication between the employer and employees. PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE - Singapore workers will be offered more flexi-work options, like choosing when to start and finish work, under a new scheme launched on Friday (Oct 6).

While voluntary, the initiative requires employers to a make a public commitment to a set of good practices if they adopt the tripartite standard on flexible work arrangements.

They can then use the "Tripartite Standards" logo in their job advertisements and marketing efforts.

The new move comes at a time when growth of the country's workforce is slowing and companies are encouraged to create a more family-friendly workplace.

Very often, the spotlight is on working mums, said Second Minister for Manpower Josephine Teo when she unveiled the initiative.

But they are not the only ones with caregiving or important personal needs, such as taking ill parents for medical appointments or furthering their studies, she added.

"To keep working, they will need some flexibility in their work arrangements," she said.

At the same time, Mrs Teo noted that businesses have their own set-ups and needs, so blanket rules on flexi-work may not work well. "We need to give companies some flexibility in how they design flexible work arrangements so that they suit their employees' needs as well as their business operations."

Already, more than 250 companies employing 210,000 workers have adopted the tripartite standard. At least 50 of them are small and medium enterprises.

Their names are listed on the website of the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (Tafep).

It is one way to raise the profile of progressive employers, as many companies which offer such arrangements are not known to the public, said Mrs Teo.

The tripartite standard also requires the company to appoint a member of its senior management to champion flexi-work arrangements, and ensure good communication between the employer and employees on the available options and how to apply for them as well as alternatives if the offerings are not suitable for the worker's job scope.

Supervisors also have to be trained on ways to set work expectations and appraise fairly employees on flexi-work arrangements.

Free workshops for them will be offered by Tafep.

If employees feel the commitments are not fulfilled, they can inform Tafep, which will help the company to improve.

The new tripartite standard is the second to be launched, with another three expected by year's end. The first was on better employment conditions for term-contract employees. It came out in July and over 400 employers are on board.

A signatory of the latest tripartite standard is precision engineering company Feinmetall Singapore, which lets its staff start work between 7.30am and 10am. They can also work from home two days a month if their job scope allows it.

About half of its 60 employees are on either of the schemes, which were rolled out at the start of this year, said its general manager Sam Chee Wah.

Initially, it was difficult to keep track of the staff and call for meetings, but he has since worked out a more structured meeting schedule that has also helped to boost productivity.

"Today, we can see the benefits and feel staff morale is strong. Flexi-work arrangements can help us attract and retain staff, especially the younger generation who want some control over their working hours," he said.

On Friday, Mrs Teo toured Feinmetall's $6-million digital manufacturing facility in Marsiling which opened in June this year, and met the staff.

Sales and application engineer Steven Ngo, 42, said he used to arrive late for work because he would send one son to school and the other to a babysitter before heading to work. It was difficult to arrive by 8am, the specified start time.

Now, he is on time since he opted to start work at 8.30am .

Process engineer Gail Chan, 24, starts and leaves work earlier to be on time for her evening classes at the National University of Singapore in Kent Ridge.

It takes about an hour to travel there and she used to be late for the 6pm classes of her industrial and management engineering course.

"Now, I leave before 5pm and I schedule my tasks and meetings for earlier in the day. It has helped me to be more efficient at work as well," she said.

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