Parliamentary quote that’s music to our ears: Gan Siow Huang on flexible work arrangements

Manpower Minister of State Gan Siow Huang said in Parliament on May 10, 2022 that flexible work arrangements remain relevant and the tripartite partners agree that employers should sustain and promote such arrangements as a permanent feature of the workplace. We reproduce her oral answer in full.

“Even as we continue to ease safe management measures at the workplace, flexible work arrangements (FWAs) remain relevant and important to businesses.

Many employers see the value of retaining FWAs as it not only strengthens business resilience, but also improves talent retention and attraction. A recent study by the Institute of Policy Studies on workplace arrangements also found that around eight in 10 respondents who telecommuted most or all of the time felt they were productive doing so. Our surveys show that the majority of employers are keen to continue FWAs even after the pandemic ends, given the benefits FWAs bring to both employers and employees.

Tripartite Partners agree that employers should sustain and promote FWAs as a permanent feature of the workplace and released a Tripartite Statement in April to encourage employers to continue providing them. In the last two years, employers implemented FWAs, especially telecommuting as an urgent measure for public health resilience even when they were unsure that this was good for productivity. For the provision of FWAs to be a sustainable and effective permanent measure, employers will need sufficient time and support to find the right calibration that works best for their employees while meeting business needs. After all, workplace settings and business needs differ across industries, and different employees also have differing needs and expectations of FWAs.

Over the next few years, Tripartite Partners will do more to strengthen training to equip companies with the know-how to implement FWAs in a win-win and sustainable manner, such as in areas of HR policy or job redesign. We will also partner our Work-Life Ambassadors on the ground to advocate for and support the implementation of FWAs. As laid out in the White Paper on Singapore Women’s Development, we will also bring more companies onboard the voluntary Tripartite Standard on FWAs so that more companies adopt best practices in FWA implementation. This includes having a clear policy on how to request for FWAs and expectations on its responsible use, timely communication of outcomes on FWA requests as well as fair and objective evaluation of employees’ FWA requests. The Public Service has taken the lead to adopt the Tripartite Standard on FWAs.

These efforts will put companies in good stead to comply with the upcoming Tripartite Guidelines that Tripartite Partners will introduce by 2024, which will make it a requirement for employers to fairly and properly consider FWA requests. Together, these efforts will establish the norm that it is acceptable to request for FWAs, while maintaining employers’ prerogative to assess and decide on these FWA requests based on their business and operational needs.”