SINGAPORE: While there are government assistance grants to help companies embrace worklife balance, some employers said more can be done.
The Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) has asked the government to provide a grant for HR practitioners to design and implement flexible work arrangements.
Responding to queries from Channel NewsAsia, SNEF said supervisors and middle managers could also be trained to manage a mobile and flexible workforce.
There should also be systems to support employees on maternity leave so that they can return to work easily.
In addition, the economically inactive who are able to return to work on a flexible basis should also be re—orientated, given basic office and computer literacy skills and life skills to cope with the transition back into the workforce.
SNEF also hope that the government funds can be expanded to help employers defray the costs of ongoing efforts to build and strengthen capabilities to sustain worklife efforts to retain employees as well as to attract workers with family responsibilities.
The Association for Small and Medium Enterprises (ASME) is calling for government assistance to subsidise the cost of training programmes on flexible work arrangements.
Sammy Liu, who is a director (Valuation Services) at GSK Global, is currently pursuing a part—time degree course.
Her company’s worklife policies are helping her cope with her studies.
Employees at GSK Global are given a lot of flexibility in managing their annual leave.
Ms Liu is able to take a quarter—day leave of two hours to attend classes.
Ms Liu said: "That means our annual leave, we don’t have to take half—day leave (or) even one day leave. The one quarter day leave is to save our annual leave. It’s better for me, I can settle my personal things."
GSK Global also awards its employees additional leave for punctuality and for not taking sick leave.
Such worklife strategies have also benefited the company.
Absenteeism is low and not many employees take sick leave.
The government is encouraging more companies to introduce worklife strategies.
The Work—Life Works! (WoW!) Fund helps to defray costs incurred by firms in introducing worklife measures. An approved project can be funded up to 80 per cent of costs subject to a maximum of S$20,000.
In addition, help is given for companies to hire new workers on part—time or flexible work arrangements.
Flexible work arrangements include part—time working, staggered hours, flexi—time, job—sharing, telecommuting, and alternative work schedules.
Flexi—Works! offers a grant of up to S$100,000 to support a company’s efforts in implementing flexible work arrangements.
The government began promoting worklife harmony in the late 1990s as a way of addressing Singapore’s declining birthrate. In 2000, the Tripartite Committee on worklife strategy was formed to drive initiatives at the national level.
Stakeholders Channel NewsAsia spoke to said radical ideas are needed for worklife balance to be more prevalent.
Chief executive officer at GSK Global, Eric Tan, said: "So far the government effort has been consultative and they are trying to use promotional approach. Perhaps we should consider forming legislation to promote worklife, for example, employer cannot reject employee who asks for flexible work hours. It has happened in countries like Sweden and UK."
Mr Tan suggests that a special government agency or statutory board can be formed to accelerate the pace of adoption of worklife strategies.
Additionally, Mr Tan said so far a lot of effort is targeted at companies with 50 employees and above.
He urged the government to reach out more to smaller enterprises or even micro—enterprises, with fewer than 10 staff.
Mr Tan explained that the smaller companies lack the knowledge, systems, and processes in realising a flexible work arrangement.
Worklife consultants said presently, many firms do not have any guidelines on this issue.
Senior partner of Capelle Consulting, Helen Lim—Yang, said: "So it will be good for an organisation to have worklife policies and practice put in place just like it’s common practice to make sure that your staff are covered by insurance.
"So when we have practices and policies in place, it then means that if there is a need to evaluate how staff are doing in terms of worklife issues and challenges, then there is conscious effort and responsibility from both employers and employees to critically examined what needs to be done."
When asked, the Manpower Ministry said it’s currently reviewing its funding schemes for flexible work arrangements.
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