Good-practices scheme to boost flexi-work options

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

Firms in voluntary initiative must make public pledge to offer such arrangements

Singapore workers will be offered more flexi-work options, such as choosing when to start and finish work, under a new scheme that was launched yesterday.

While voluntary, the initiative requires employers to 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 being encouraged to create a more family-friendly workplace.

The spotlight is often on working mothers, Second Minister for Manpower Josephine Teo said as she unveiled the initiative. But they are not the only ones with caregiving or important personal needs, such as taking parents for medical check-ups or furthering one's 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. She said: "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-sized 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 firms that 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 in how to set work expectations and appraise employees on flexi-work arrangements fairly. Tafep will offer free workshops for them.

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

The new tripartite standard is the second to be launched, with another three expected by the year 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.

Yesterday, Mrs Teo went on a tour of its $6 million digital manufacturing facility in Marsiling, which opened in June, and met its staff.

Process engineer Gail Chan, 24, opted to start and leave work half an hour earlier, to be on time for her 6pm 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 her industrial and management engineering class. "Now, I leave before 5pm and I schedule my tasks and meetings for earlier in the day. It has made me more efficient at work as well," she said.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 07, 2017, with the headline 'Good-practices scheme to boost flexi-work options'. Print Edition | Subscribe