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Navigating Flexible Work Arrangements: A Guide for Employers and Employees

On April 15, 2024, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) unveiled new guidelines that all employers in Singapore must fairly consider formal requests from employees for flexible work arrangements (FWAs). As the battle for talent intensifies, the landscape of work is evolving and with it the demand for flexibility.


What do the new flexible work arrangement guidelines entail?

The new Tripartite Guidelines on Flexible Work Arrangement Requests state that, from Dec 1, 2024, all employees who have passed probation may request for flexible work arrangements. Such arrangements may take the form of flexi-place, flexi-time and flexi-load arrangements.

In turn, employers should communicate their decision within two months of a request for flexible work arrangements. While employers have the right to reject such requests, the decision should be backed up by reasonable business grounds such as cost or productivity considerations.


Implications of flexible work arrangements

While the new guidelines are progressive in intent with employees and employers having the right to determine work arrangements, many business leaders are concerned that this may give rise to staff management issues.

One oft-quoted concern is that staff may take advantage of the flexibility and become hard to manage. Another concern is that staff may take to job-hopping to companies that offer their preferred work arrangements. Employees have also raised concerns that such guidelines may give employers the impetus to employ workers outside Singapore on remote arrangements, on grounds of perceived cost savings.

While such concerns are not unfounded, they can be overcome with careful consideration of the different forms of flexible work arrangements and matching them to suitable jobs in the company.

What are the challenges that employers and employees need to be aware of for flexible work arrangements to succeed? What are the implementation considerations?


Challenges and Implementation considerations

In flexi-place arrangements, employees may work at a place other than the designated workplace, or have no designated workplace. This may take the form of remote working from their home for some or all of the time; or “work from anywhere” where workers can telecommute even from abroad.

Flexi-time arrangements allow staff to work at different timings with no changes to total work hours and work load.

One example is the flexi-shift scheme which allows staff to select shifts that accommodate their other commitments. Another example is the flexi-hour scheme which allows employees to work a certain number of hours over an accounting period, such as a week. In such an arrangement, employees can work at any time of the day, as long as they complete the stipulated hours within the work week.

Other possibilities include staggered working hours where employees may work the same number of hours in a day, but at staggered start and finish times; and compressed work schedule where the employee may work longer hours over fewer days for the same pay.

Staff on flexi-load arrangements generally take up workloads that are different from that in similar full-time positions, with pay adjusted to match.

One example is part-time work where employees work reduced hours on a regular basis. This may take the form of working fewer than 35 hours a week, such as working less than a full day all week or working only on some days.

Another possibility is job sharing where two or more part-time employees share the responsibilities of one full-time employee under this arrangement.


To adopt Flexible Work Arrangement or not?

Flexible Work Arrangement – as its name indicates – is meant to facilitate flexibility. Whether a company chooses to provide such arrangements, or which form it prefers to adopt, the key deciding factor would ultimately be its business needs and whether it contributes to its business goals.

As Minister Tan See Leng explained in his social media posts on April 27, 2024, “it does not mean that employers must approve all flexible work arrangement requests. Instead, employers must consider and respond to employees’ requests based on business needs. With flexible work arrangements becoming a workplace norm, employers who don’t offer them, will find it harder to hire and retain workers. The guidelines therefore set out how businesses can embrace flexible work arrangements and maintain productivity.”

However, for any flexible work arrangement to succeed, it will require a high degree of trust, commitment and respect between the employer/supervisor and employee. Managers would need to find out from employees what would meet their needs as well as take time to discuss and explain the implications of flexible work arrangements.

Furthermore, managers would need to adopt a mindset that performance can and should be measured on the basis of outcomes. They would also need to  be able to communicate clearly to employees how and when they should be contactable during work hours, what are expected of them and demonstrate how work can be delivered effectively. In turn, employees must demonstrate their commitment to their work, and ensure they remain contactable during the stipulated working arrangements.

Managers are therefore encouraged to accede to requests for flexible work arrangement where business outcomes and effectiveness will not be compromised, and no additional costs are incurred. By allowing flexibility, companies demonstrate their commitment to better work-life balance, while their employees are assured of the trust and respect their companies have in them.





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