COS 2021: Flexible Work Arrangements

Mr Chua Kheng Wee Louis: In 2019, about 85% of employers offered some form of formal or ad-hoc flexible work arrangement in the workplace. However, flexible work arrangements come in a spectrum and, clearly, the level of flexibility that was in place pre-COVID-19 is dramatically different from what you have seen in 2020 and today, with work from home being the default work arrangement.

Amongst many companies in Singapore, I note that UOB has already instituted a two-day work from home policy post-COVID-19 while DBS will give its workforce the option to work remotely up to 40% of the time.

Is it now time for the Government to reflect the needs of today’s employees and employers and legislate a baseline level of flexible work arrangement?

Annual leave, sick leave, maternity leave and childcare leave are but amongst the various leave provisions currently legislated for under the Employment Act, although the right number is a separate topic for debate. It is not lawful for employers to give a notice of dismissal to a mother during her absence and neither is it conscionable for employers to discriminate against hiring women and mothers.

Now, legislation is no silver bullet, but it is an all-important first step. In the same vein, I do hope that the Government, businesses and society do not view flexible work arrangements as one which has unintended consequences of reduced employability and it is imperative for all of us and the Government to demonstrate leadership on this matter.

Ministry of Manpower
2 March 2021

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