SINGAPORE, April 19 — All companies in Singapore will soon be required to have a “formal process” for employees who have completed their probation on the job to ask for flexible work arrangements, a tripartite workgroup announced earlier this week.

So what exactly is flexi-work, and how does it differ from one’s current arrangement? Will one’s salary be cut when taking on flexi-work? And what happens if bosses reject workers’ requests?

These details are set out in a 20-page document released by the workgroup during the launch of the guidelines on Tuesday (April 16). The workgroup consists of representatives from various agencies including the Ministry of Manpower, the National Trades Union Congress and the Singapore National Employers Federation.

To address some of these burning questions, here is a recap on what the new guidelines state, and what employers and employees can expect when they take effect later this year.


Q: What is Singapore’s stance on flexi-work?

Presently, some workplaces already adopt formal or non-formal ways to process flexi-work requests by employees, either in written or verbal form, though it is not mandatory for them to have such processes.

With the new guidelines taking effect from Dec 1, employees can ask to vary their standard work arrangements in terms of their workload, their work hours and their place of work — and employers are obligated to listen.


As to why these guidelines are needed, it is because Singapore’s rapidly ageing population means that caregiving needs will also surge, which makes the availability of flexi-work arrangements all the more critical since it allows people to remain in the workforce, the tripartite workgroup said.

That is why the guidelines seek to establish a harmonious workplace norm where employees feel comfortable asking for such work arrangements, and employers can evaluate requests and work out arrangements that meet both parties’ needs, it added.

Q: What are some examples of flexi-work arrangements?

Flexible work arrangements include various modes of doing work such as telecommuting, remote working from home, but also shorter work hours or a compressed work schedule such as a four-day work week.

Workers may also formally ask for reduced workloads, or to be put on a part-time schedule and share the responsibilities of a single full-time job with another part-time worker, for example.

In general, the various types of flexible work arrangements can be broken down into the following:

  • • Flexi-place: Employees may ask to work from different locations aside from their usual office location
  • • Flexi-time: Employees may ask to work at different timings or shifts, without altering their total work hours and workload
  • • Flexi-load: Employees may request to vary their workloads or reduce their hours of work

As to what it means in terms of salaries, the guidelines state that one’s pay may be commensurate with their workload. This means that salaries may have to be lowered if the worker takes on certain arrangements that effectively reduce the person’s workload.

This is because certain types of flexi-work arrangements may result in a change in the work scope and responsibilities of the employee.

“For such instances, the employees are encouraged to have a candid conversation with their supervisor on the feasibility of this option, the expectations and deliverables before embarking on the flexible work arrangement,” the workgroup said.

Q: Is it mandatory for companies to offer flexi-work to all employees, including those working in essential services or in the frontline?

It is not mandatory for companies to offer flexi-work arrangements to employees, including those providing essential services or working in the frontline.

However, when the guidelines take effect, all employers are obligated to listen and review such requests from all of their employees who have completed their probations.

If employers wilfully refuse to comply with the guidelines, the authorities may issue a warning and require them to attend corrective workshops.

The Ministry of Manpower said: “Employers and employees are strongly encouraged to discuss and resolve disagreements... through the firm’s internal grievance handling mechanism.”

Should employers not properly consider workers’ formal requests, the workers can approach the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (Tafep), the labour movement or their respective unions for advice and assistance.

Q: How can workers negotiate their requests with their employers?

Come Dec 1, a worker may submit a formal request to the employer either through the company’s work portal, or using a template provided on the Tafep’s website.

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 worker’s request within two months.

The workgroup said that when employees ask for such arrangements, they should do so responsibly — by considering the impact on their workload and performance, as well as the impact on their team and clients, where relevant to their job roles.

The guidelines provide a starting point for proper discussions on one’s flexi-work requests. To add on, several human resources experts gave tips to TODAY on how to improve the negotiation chances:

  • • Seek early clarification from employers on the process of flexi-work requests
  • • Clearly communicate the benefits of flexi-work, both for the worker and his employer
  • • Emphasise how such arrangements can contribute to productivity and well-being
  • • Maintain an open and constructive dialogue
  • • Provide examples of such flexibility in similar roles elsewhere
  • • Be prepared to negotiate aspects of the request

Q: What can workers do if their company rejects their flexible work arrangement request?

The guidelines state that if a worker’s request is rejected, employers should include the reason for rejection in the written decision.

Employers are also encouraged to discuss alternative flexible work arrangements with the worker who had made the formal request.

Although the guidelines do not govern whether employers accept or reject these requests, the tripartite workgroup encourages them to grant such requests where feasible, given the many benefits such as being able to attract and retain talent.

And while employers have the prerogative to reject requests, the reasons for rejection should be based on “reasonable business grounds”, the workgroup said.

These include potential cost involved, impact on productivity or output, as well as the request’s feasibility or practicality.

As to what workers can do in such a scenario, rejection does not mean the end of all discussion, the human resource experts said.

Mr Nilay Khandelwal, managing director of the Singapore and Indonesia branches of recruitment firm Michael Page, told TODAY that there still is value in displaying a willingness to understand the employer’s perspective and keeping the conversation going.

This is because discussing the reasons for rejection can provide insights into the employer’s concerns, he said.

“Employees should ask if there are alternative solutions that could meet both their needs and the employer’s expectations, and whether a trial period could be possible to demonstrate the arrangement’s viability.” — TODAY

For a non-exhaustive list of flexible work choices, go to