Flexible Work Arrangements – Next Steps For Employers

The recently announced Tripartite Guidelines on Flexible Work Arrangements Requests (Guidelines) require employers to, as far as reasonably practicable...
Singapore Employment and HR
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The recently announced Tripartite Guidelines on Flexible Work Arrangements Requests (Guidelines) require employers to, as far as reasonably practicable, consider employees' formal requests for flexible work arrangements (FWA) from 1 December 2024 (Effective Date). The three types of FWAs that can be requested are (i) flexible place of work, (ii) flexible working hours (with no change in total working hours and workload) and (iii) flexible workloads.

This is a landmark shift in the Singapore employment landscape as FWA requests which can currently be brushed off would soon have to be properly considered by employers, and such requests can only be rejected if employers have reasonable business grounds to do so.

In order to be prepared for a potential influx of FWA requests, as well as to ensure organisational work processes and systems are prepared for FWA arrangements, employers should prepare early before the Effective Date. This article sets out some next steps for employers to consider.

  1. Examine work processes

Review organisational work processes and identify early the roles where FWAs may be introduced, and the extent to which the FWA can be introduced. For example, if a particular role can have flexible hours, employers should consider if staggered work hours or a compressed work week would suit a role or team better. There are many organisation-specific or role-specific factors for employers to start considering now.

  1. Engagement with employees

To better understand and anticipate future employee FWA requests, employers may wish to consider conducting firmwide surveys and arranging one-on-one or focused group discussions with employees. Employers can use such discussions to also explain the need to balance FWAs with the needs of organisations. Employers may even consider implementing pilot schemes so that any operational issues can be addressed early, to facilitate a smoother transition to FWA arrangements.

  1. Draft FWA policies

Well-prepared employers should have full clarity of their FWA policies before the Effective Date. As such, FWA policies should be finalised and communicated to prospective and existing employees before the Effective Date. This sets proper expectations for employees – where employers may be able to accommodate requests and where employers are unable to.

Employers should also provide proper training to supervisors and human resource personnel to equip them with the right skills to manage employees on FWAs and to explain and justify the organisation's FWA policies to the employees.

  1. Preparing forms

Some standard forms are provided in the Guidelines such as a template for an employee to submit a formal FWA request and another template for an employer to respond to a formal FWA request. Employers may wish to spend some time tailoring these templates for their own organisations. The FWA request form could, for example, include specific details such as the type of flexible working hours (e.g. staggered or compressed hours), the employee's proposal on certain outcomes and reminders for standards of accountability, quality and timelines. There may even be room for a team request template, to allow for a team (rather than an individual) to detail how it would organise itself to collectively take on the same workload after the implementation of the FWAs (e.g. team member A covering certain hours and team member B covering certain hours, in a team-based flexi- working hours request).

  1. Consider need to amend existing agreements

The introduction of FWA arrangements would often mean changes to employees' terms and conditions of their employment agreements. For example, a telecommuting arrangement would be a change of terms that requires an employee to work only from the office. Employers should consider whether they should prepare new agreements (e.g. a telecommuting agreement in this case), or addendums to the original employment agreements.

The above steps are just a flavour of the work that employer should embark on before the Effective Date. The earlier that organisations prepare, the more prepared they will be for navigating the new landscape come 1 Dec 2024.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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