Singapore – New Tripartite Guidelines on Flexible Work Arrangements

What’s new?

From 1 December 2024, employers should have a formal process in place for employees to submit flexible work arrangement (“FWA“) requests, and process these requests fairly, in line with Singapore Tripartite’s Guidelines on Flexible Work Arrangement Requests (the “Guidelines“).

What are FWAs?

FWAs are work arrangements where employers and employees agree to a variation from the standard work arrangement. These can be categorised as follows: (i) flexi-place (for example, working from home); (ii) flexi-time (for example, flexible working hours); and (iii) flexi-load (for example, job sharing or part-time work).

What procedure should be followed when making/responding to a formal FWA request?

  1. Employee submits the formal FWA request – All employees who have passed probation are entitled to submit a formal FWA request to their employer (employers may voluntarily consider formal FWA request from employees on probation). Employees submitting a formal FWA request should include the information stipulated in the Guidelines (including, for example, the FWA requested, the reason for the request, requested start and end date (if relevant)).
  2. Employer considers the formal FWA request – Employers should then discuss FWA requests in an open and constructive manner to come to a mutual agreement which best meets the organisation’s and employee’s needs, and consider them properly by focusing on factors related to the employee’s job and how their request may affect the business / employee’s performance of the job. Where possible, disagreements should be handled using the organisation’s internal grievance procedure. Should an employer wish to reject a FWA request, this should be based on reasonable business grounds (such as cost, detriment to productivity or output, or feasibility and practicality) and not personal bias. It is further recommended in the Guidelines that employers seek to accommodate requests where reasonably practical and assess each request on a case-by-case basis.
  3. Employer informs employee of the decision – Employers must inform the employee in writing of their decision within two months of receiving the formal FWA request (including any reason for rejection). Further clarifications / discussions regarding the request should also be within the two-month period. As above, employers should discuss alternatives where possible, when rejecting a request.

What happens if employers do not follow the Guidelines?

Whilst the Guidelines are technically non-binding, employers are strongly encouraged to follow them. They are intended to develop strong workplace norms around FWAs and set out best practices in developing mutual understanding between employers and employees. Non-adherence could result in investigations by authorities, warnings, a requirement for employers to participate in corrective workshops and/or curtailment of work pass privileges.

So, what should employers do now?

Employers should review the Guidelines and follow these principles when considering formal FWA requests to ensure they are acting in best practice once these come into force on 1 December 2024. Employers should also consider updating any internal policies which reference flexible working requests (if applicable). If you need any support with this, or would like any further information, please get in touch with a member of the MDR ONE team.