SINGAPORE: Nearly 7 in 10 respondents in a survey by the labour movement here say their employers are not quite supportive of flexi—work arrangements.
The union says legislating flexi—work may be inevitable as more workers aspire for greater work—life balance.
In the survey posed to 5,720 people, the respondents were asked if they are happy.
Six in 10 said they are happier after getting married and nearly 8 in 10 said they are happier after they became parents.
But 43 per cent also said they do not have enough time for their family. Four in 5 said they hardly have any personal time.
Most said their employers are not quite supportive of flexi—work arrangements.
About 6 in 10 said they do not have supportive colleagues.
The National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) said this is indicative that a lot of companies here may be just paying lip service to work—life balance. It added that legislation may be the way to go.
Cham Hui Fong, director of industrial relations department at NTUC, said: "We think that eventually that would be the way to go, but at this point in time we are working with the companies to see how we can make it more accessible for the employees, make it more convenient for the employees to ask when they need to have flexi—work arrangement, flexi—time to care for their family.
"We are actually looking at something similar to the re—employment law, whereby when the person has the need to go into flexi—work arrangement, or flexi—time, that employers should be obliged to provide this.
"But of course it is subject to certain understanding that (the employer) is able to re—schedule the work or that (the employee) is able to meet the expected output."
One analyst said legislating the right for a worker to ask for flexi—work arrangements is an important signal.
Dr Mathew Mathews, research fellow at the Institute of Policy Studies, said: "I think the area of legislation that can be looked into is the idea about employees having the right to ask for flexible work—life arrangements.
"That right will signal to employers that employees need to be taken care of. it’s not just how they can fully maximise them and their work, but also to allow them to have that happiness by engaging in work—life initiatives and being able to take care of their family needs as well.
"The whole idea that if there is a clause which gives provision for the worker to ask, then for one, the worker does not feel that he is raising a demand, that this is something that he has every right to ask for that provision and his fellow colleagues won’t see him as going against the grain, that he is exercising his perfect right, just like somebody taking maternity leave or going for some other kind of approved leave.
"This is an approved flexibility that can be incorporated in the work culture, so I think this will signal a step forward for this whole work—life initiative."
However, the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) said legislating a right for employees to request for flexi—work to take care of their children will create unnecessary friction and stress at the workplace, not only between employers and employees but also among employees.
It added that not every job can be done on flexi—hours and few companies can guarantee a job 12 months later.
"It would be better to focus on helping employers to implement flexi—work and mothers to secure suitable jobs when they re—enter the workforce," said SNEF.
The labour movement is taking some steps to get companies to move into this direction, for instance requiring flexi—work arrangements to be worked into the union’s collective agreement with employers before the agreement is renewed. But so far, fewer than 10 unionised companies have agreed to those terms.
There are about 1,500 unionised companies in Singapore.
Workers whom Channel NewsAsia spoke with were mixed in their views about whether they do have work—life balance.
Most that do reveal that they work for multi—national corporations.
Karine Lim, a partner account manager, said: "I’m a new mum so I have to strike a balance between at home and at work and at my organisation. I think my company has given me a lot of flexibility. When the need arises, we have full support of the management."
Loke Han Kang, an account manager, said: "I would say it’s more like work—life integration because nowadays, sometimes you are at home and you are still working. When you are in office, you are actually doing something (for the) home, so it’s more integration than separating it. You really need to put effort and time and say, ’this is the time I need to spend with my family’."
Relationship manager assistant Jovyn Chua said: "Certain things are time—sensitive so even if I have a family, if I go home on time, my husband won’t be home because of his work, so we won’t be able to meet. So there isn’t any work—life balance, that’s how I feel."
Moving forward, the labour movement is doing more to engage stakeholders. For example, it is getting employers to come up with action plans to have work—life balance policies instituted in the workplace.
It is also asking the government to give the same kind of benefits to single mothers and working married mothers, as well as asking for more government incentives for companies to have work—life balance initiatives at their workplace.
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