SINGAPORE: The Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) has clarified its stance on the new tripartite guidelines for flexible work arrangements (FWA), emphasizing that they are designed to help employers consider formal requests for such arrangements without mandating specific outcomes.

In a recent statement, SNEF underlined that the guidelines do not prescribe the types of FWAs that employers must implement. Instead, the aim is to encourage employers to explore various forms of flexibility that can work for both them and their employees.

The new guidelines come as authorities require all employers to establish a formal process for employees to request flexible work arrangements by 1 December 2024. This move follows a tight labour market, which has seen 174 job vacancies for every 100 job seekers in December 2023, largely due to an ageing population and a slowing workforce growth.

“The goal is to enhance workforce potential by retaining and attracting individuals to rejoin the workforce, including caregivers, young parents, and the elderly,” stated SNEF.

According to the Ministry of Manpower’s 2023 Labour Force Survey, nearly a quarter of the 1.12 million residents outside the labour force cited housework and caregiving as reasons for not working. This trend is expected to increase with an ageing population, suggesting that providing flexible work arrangements could enable more people to balance work and personal responsibilities.

SNEF added that extending retirement and re-employment ages could also allow older employees to continue working, even on a reduced or part-time basis.

SNEF highlighted that for flexible work arrangements to be sustainable, they must work for both employers and employees.

“FWA requests that result in higher costs without a corresponding increase in productivity or improvement in business outcome will not be sustainable,” they noted. Additionally, the organisation acknowledged that not all FWA requests can be approved due to practical reasons and constraints.

Despite the flexibility offered by the new guidelines, companies with existing effective flexible work setups are encouraged to continue their practices. SNEF also mentioned plans to support employers in implementing FWAs through a series of training workshops and clinics. These sessions aim to provide employers with tools, templates, resources, and a comprehensive playbook to guide them through the process.

To address any concerns or questions, SNEF will hold an in-person briefing on 2 May. The event will offer employers the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the new guidelines and explore how they can adapt their operations to meet the new requirements while balancing their business needs.