Guidelines for employees to apply for a 4-day work week with their employers in Singapore

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    18th April 2024 – (Singapore) On 15th April, the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP) announced a pivotal update that will significantly alter the work environment in Singapore. Starting from 1st December this year, employees will be entitled to formally request modifications to their working arrangements, including opting for four-day work weeks, more remote working days, and staggered work timings. This initiative underscores Singapore’s commitment to adapting to global trends that emphasize flexibility to retain and attract talent.

    Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower, in conjunction with the National Trades Union Congress and the Singapore National Employers Federation, has facilitated this progressive move. Although these guidelines are not legally binding, they mandate all companies in Singapore to establish a formal process to handle requests for flexible work arrangements (FWAs).

    Breakdown of the new flexible work arrangements

    According to the newly released guidelines:

    • Employees can request four-day work weeks, increased remote working days, and flexible work locations.
    • Requests can also be made for staggered work timings to accommodate personal and family commitments.

    Yeo Wan Ling, co-chair of the Tripartite Workgroup, highlighted that FWAs are particularly crucial for caregivers, women, and older workers, often influencing their decisions to stay in or return to the workforce.

    Criteria for approving or rejecting flexible work arrangements

    Companies are expected to consider each request seriously but are permitted to decline them under certain conditions:

    • If the FWA could significantly reduce productivity.
    • If the FWA would result in increased operational costs.
    • If the nature of the job makes the requested arrangement unfeasible.

    However, rejections cannot be based solely on traditional company practices, management’s personal beliefs against FWAs, or a preference for direct supervision in a physical office setting.

    In instances where a company fails to comply with these guidelines, the Ministry of Manpower may intervene, potentially issuing warnings and requiring corrective actions, such as attendance at specific workshops.

    The introduction of these guidelines is not merely a response to global trends. It addresses specific local challenges such as the tight labour market, the ageing demographic, and the broader objective of empowering a diverse workforce. Minister of State for Manpower, Gan Siow Huang, emphasised that embracing flexible work arrangements is crucial for the future economic strength of Singapore. “If we want to maintain a robust workforce, enabling Singaporeans who wish to work with the flexibility to do so is essential,” stated Gan.

    This move is expected to make Singaporean companies more attractive to potential employees, thereby enhancing their competitive edge in the global market. It also aligns with the government’s long-term strategy to foster an inclusive, supportive, and adaptable work environment.