SINGAPORE, April 16 — Four-day work weeks, more work-from-home days, staggered work timings. These are examples of flexible work arrangements (FWAs) that all employees who have completed their probation will be able to formally request from their employers starting December 1 this year.

This is according to the new Tripartite Guidelines on Flexible Work Arrangement Requests announced today by the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (Tafep) — an agency set up by the Ministry of Manpower, National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) and Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF).

The guidelines, while not enforceable by law, stipulate that all firms should set up a process for employees to submit a formal FWA request, and also outline how the request will be handled.

However, the guidelines will not govern whether the request is approved or rejected.


The new guidelines will replace the 2014 Tripartite Advisory and the 2017 Tripartite Standard on FWAs — which merely sought to promote FWAs and provide best practices for employers respectively.

Here are five things you need to know about the guidelines.

1. What kind of flexible work arrangements can I request?


FWAs are variations from the standard work arrangement that both employer and employee have agreed upon. They broadly encompasses the following:

• Flexi-place: Where employees work from different locations aside from their usual office location (for example telecommuting, work-from-home)

• Flexi-time: Where employees work at different timings with no changes to total work hours and workload (for example flexi-hours, staggered hours, flexi-shift, compressed work schedule)

• Flexi-load: Where employees work with different workloads and with commensurate remuneration (for example job sharing, part-time work)

Tafep has also provided a non-exhaustive list of FWA types under each category on its website.

2. How does it work?

An employee can submit a formal FWA request to their employer either through the company’s work portal, or using a template outlined in the guidelines.

After the request has been submitted, the employer is required to consider it “properly” and communicate its decision in writing to approve or reject the employee’s request within two months.

The guidelines state that if the request is rejected, employers should include the reason for rejection in the written decision. They are also encouraged to discuss alternative FWAs with the employee.

While employers have the prerogative to reject employees’ FWA requests, the reasons for rejection should be based on “reasonable business grounds”.

3. What is considered ‘reasonable’ or ‘unreasonable’?

Some examples of reasonable business grounds for rejection of FWAs include:

• Cost: The FWA leads to a significant increase in cost burden to the employer

• Impact on productivity or output: The FWA leads to a significant decrease in the productivity or output of the individual, team or organisation, or negatively impacts the organisation’s ability to meet customer needs

• Feasibility or practicality: The FWA is not feasible or impractical due to nature of job role, lack of capacity to change other employees’ work arrangements, or the need to hire new employees to accommodate the FWA request

On the other hand, employers should not reject FWA requests for reasons that are not directly related to business outcomes, such as:

• The management does not believe in FWAs

• The supervisor prefers to have direct sight of the employee in the office so that he/she can see if they are working, even though the employee has consistent satisfactory work performance

• It is the organisation’s tradition or custom to not have FWAs

Should employers not properly consider an employee’s formal FWA request, an employee can approach Tafep, NTUC or their respective unions for advice and assistance.

4. Why are these guidelines in place?

The new guidelines come amid slowing workforce growth and increasing caregiving needs in Singapore due to ageing, the guidelines’ Tripartite Workgroup said in its report, adding that FWAs are increasingly important to sustain labour force participation.

FWAs may also help firms better attract and retain talent amid a tight labour market and support workers with caregiving responsibilities and parenthood aspirations.

The aim of the guidelines, they said, is to establish a harmonious workplace norm where employees feel comfortable requesting for FWAs, and employers can evaluate requests and work out arrangements that meet both parties’ needs.

5. How can businesses adjust to the new guidelines?

The guidelines are slated to be in place by December in order to allow businesses the time to adjust and review their processes, a spokesperson from Tafep said in a briefing to the media in early April.

In the guidelines’ concluding segment, Tafep said that it will — together with SNEF, the Institute for Human Resource Professionals, the Association for Small and Medium Enterprises, and SME Centres — provide tools and resources to help organisations implement FWAs.

These include training workshops, advisory services and educational materials. — TODAY