Govt prefers to stay with encouraging flexi-work plans

PHOTO: Govt prefers to stay with encouraging flexi-work plans

Despite much effort being put into promoting flexible working schemes, the uptake continues to be slow.

The Government will also not change its approach to get more on board.

It will continue trying to encourage employers to give the schemes a try.

It is reluctant to pass laws forcing companies to adopt flexible working schemes, such as hours and leave arrangements that could attract parents and older citizens back to work.

A Ministry of Manpower (MOM) survey last year showed that only 41 per cent of public- and private-sector employers offered at least one "flexible work arrangement (FWA)" - a rise of just 3 percentage points from 2010.

The Government prefers to use moral encouragement and work with its tripartite partners rather than use laws to bring in FWAs.

"It is not desirable for the Government to use the law to prescribe FWAs at this point in time," an MOM spokesman said.

The ministry said it has studied such laws overseas and said they may not be effective here unless complementary conditions are also in place, such as the backing of employers and co-workers for FWAs.

MOM launched the WorkPro Programme last month to encourage employers to build progressive workplaces for staff.

The scheme committed $170 million to encourage more employers to implement FWAs through developmental grants and financial incentives.

A "mindset change" is still the "biggest hurdle" facing mums who want to continue working or rejoin the workforce, said Mrs Sher-li Torrey, founder of social enterprise Mums@Work who held a recent flexi-work mingling session.

Some companies are paving the way by allowing work to be scheduled around family needs.

When mother-of-two Zubaidah Sulaiman had to look after her ailing father-in-law, her bosses at 361 Degrees Consultancy let her work from home, gave her a month's leave and eased her back into working full-time.

"I cannot imagine keeping my job if I were at another company that did not support pro-family initiatives," the 35-year-old said.

Another company, BDO LLP, is looking at earlier start times to take advantage of the free MRT transport scheme being rolled out in June.

"Some mothers take their kids to school quite early and we do not want them to wait until 8.30am just to start work," said Ms Shealin Koh, an HR manager with the accounting firm.

Mr Wong Keng Fye, Maybank's head of group human capital (Singapore), said: "We see more male employees sharing family responsibilities with their female counterparts nowadays, so we want to give them that flexibility as well."

Maybank offers unpaid leave and allows employees with children to start and end work earlier.

Ms Claire Chiang, chairman of Employer Alliance, said at an HR summit last month that employers are beginning to recognise the need for flexibility.

She added: "It will allow them to tap a much larger pool of employees otherwise unavailable."

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