Citizens' panel makes 17 recommendations to boost work-life harmony

Manpower Minister Josephine Teo (at right) attending the Citizens' Panel on Work-Life Harmony's fourth and final session at the Lifelong Learning Institute yesterday.
Manpower Minister Josephine Teo (at right) attending the Citizens' Panel on Work-Life Harmony's fourth and final session at the Lifelong Learning Institute yesterday.ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

Companies should specify their flexible work arrangements in their contracts and bosses should work side by side with their front-line employees in a national Frontline Day.

These are among the 17 recommendations that will be submitted to the Government, community groups and other relevant partners by the Citizens' Panel on Work-Life Harmony.

A panel of 55 Singaporeans from all walks of life met on four Saturdays over six weeks to deliberate on issues such as flexible working arrangements and to propose ways of strengthening work-life harmony, including a more supportive societal and workplace culture.

The panel presented its final 17 recommendations at the fourth and final session at the Lifelong Learning Institute yesterday.

Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said that the recommendations were holistic in nature, with a few that were quite feasible and can be immediately discussed with key stakeholders to identify the next steps in implementing them.

For instance, one of the recommendations is a Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices road map, where small and medium-sized enterprises are incentivised with small awards as they implement more flexible work arrangements for their employees.

Mrs Teo said: "The implementation of flexible work arrangements is very uneven across the board - some companies may have declared that they have made it available but usage levels may not be quite there yet… So can we make it easier for firms to take the next step and create a road map so they have aspirational targets to build towards?"

 
 
 
 

The Government will seriously study these recommendations and aims to provide a comprehensive response by early next year, added Mrs Teo, who was at the session with Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Manpower and Education Low Yen Ling and Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Education, and Social and Family Development Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim.

The 17 recommendations are loosely sorted into two parts: the first aims to shift societal and workplace norms by creating new narratives and the second has more practical steps to enable the shift.

One of the recommendations is to include flexible work arrangements as a module at the Institute for Human Resource Professionals (IHRP), incentivise HR professionals to obtain the IHRP certification and to implement the arrangements at their workplaces.

Another is to break up the Government's current $100 million Work-Life Grant into "bite-sized grants" so that smaller companies can tap the scheme.

The Citizens' Panel on Work-Life Harmony, first announced by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat in June, is part of the Singapore Together movement, where the Government partners Singaporeans to discuss and deliver solutions across a wide range of policy areas.

More than 300 members of the public responded to the call for participants, with the first session kicking off on Sept 28. The subsequent two sessions were on Oct 12 and 26.

Panel member Noor Lyna Zainuddin, 34, an adjunct communications lecturer at Singapore Polytechnic and National University of Singapore, said she hopes companies will take up the recommendation to specify flexi-work arrangement policy in their contracts.

"Having it stated in the contracts will encourage more employees to speak up, instead of people fearing to ask about flexible work arrangements. It's not just for those who work in office jobs, but those in blue-collar jobs can also benefit."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 10, 2019, with the headline 'Citizens' panel makes 17 recommendations to boost work-life harmony'. Print Edition | Subscribe