Some 1,500 companies have benefitted from the Work-Life Grant, which provides funding and incentives for companies to offer flexible work arrangements (FWAs) since its launch in 2013. Second Minister for Manpower and Home Affairs Josephine Teo gave this update in an interview with Mediacorp. The WLG scheme has two components under the scheme. The Developmental Grant, which is a one-off grant of up to S$40,000, helps employers defray the implementation costs of work-life programmes.  The FWA Incentive of up to S$120,000 encourages companies to support more employees on flexible work arrangements and sustain work-life friendly workplaces.

Under the scheme, employers can tap on either or both grants for FWAs such as flexi-time where employees can vary their working time within the agreed number of hours; or flexi-place where employees can work at locations other than the office; and part-time arrangements where employees work for less than 35 hours a week. Other FWAs may also be considered on a case-by-case basis. “I think if you ask the employees in these companies whether they feel more options are available to them now, the answer is clearly yes. And if you ask the employers do they feel that their employees have become more productive, I think the answer is also clearly yes,” Mrs Teo said.

Among the companies who have successfully applied for the Work-Life Grant, eight in 10 are willing to let their employees go on unplanned time-off to attend to personal matters or to tele-work. For FWAs that occur on a regular basis such as allowing employees to work on certain days of the week, about one in two companies are willing to let their employees do that.

Based on feedback, Mrs Teo said, there are reasons to encourage companies to take it further. “It’s not just the fact that the companies have a policy that makes it possible to take flexible work arrangements. It is whether there is a sense among employees that they are empowered to do so,” she said. “One issue that comes up quite frequently is whether the supervisors will appraise their performance in a fair manner,” she added.
To tackle that, Mrs Teo said a voluntary tripartite standard on flexible work arrangements was launched last year to encourage employers to commit to a set of good practices. To date, 300 companies covering about 250,000 employees have signed on.

Apart from those with young children, Mrs Teo said that other employees can explore FWA options if they have a need for it. “We should make it available for all … It is widely applicable to anyone who has a caregiving need. It could be a single person who has primary responsibility caring for an elder. It could be someone who unexpectedly has a medical episode at home and needs to provide caregiving to a loved one,” she said. “We even have people who have decided to continue to upgrade themselves while they remain working and they take night classes. And they do need some understanding with the employer that on such and such a day, [they] need to go on such and such a time otherwise [they] will be late for class,” she added.