SINGAPORE: The Manpower Ministry will be enhancing the Work—Life Works! (WoW!) fund this year.
Channel NewsAsia understands that the review of the fund is in its final stages.
It was set up in 2004 to encourage employers to better support their employees’ need for work—life balance.
A spokesperson from the ministry told Channel NewsAsia that details of the enhancement may come together with the announcement of an improved Marriage and Parenthood package expected this month.
Good work—life balance is a key factor to help singles get married and couples have babies.
A recent survey on marriage and parenthood suggests that companies can play a part in improving the work environment.
Associate Professor Paulin Straughan, a sociologist from the National University of Singapore, believes it is important to have flexibility in the workplace.
She said: "I think if we are able to normalise flexibility in the workplace, several good things will happen. If you have an employer who looks after your needs so well, you are very unlikely to jump ship — even if times are no good and bonuses are not so high."
Flexible work arrangements include telecommuting and flexi—time, and the government provides companies incentives like the WoW! fund to introduce such work—life strategies.
Giving an update, the Manpower Ministry said so far, over 850 companies have benefited from the WoW! fund and a total of about S$15 million has been disbursed.
However, the push to improve work—life balance through flexible arrangements is progressing slowly.
A report from the MOM last month showed just over four in 10 employers said they provide such arrangements — up from 38 per cent in 2011.
Associate Professor Straughan stressed the need to encourage more trust between employers and employees, "so that we can work very hard when we are at work, finish our job, our responsibilities for the day and then come home and work hard at home and enjoy our family life".
Companies, especially the small and medium enterprises, realise this. They believe it is necessary to embrace work—life strategies as part of the company’s culture.
Chan Chong Beng, president of the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises, said: "In the old days, SME owners never feel comfortable if they don’t see their staff but people are accepting that this is the next phase of working environment.
"Work—life balance or flexi—work should be part and parcel of the nature of employment as we move along. First, there is a labour shortage. Secondly, SMEs will have to find ways to compete and retain workers. Otherwise, they will lose out."
The Manpower Ministry is also exploring the possibility of extending the Flexi—works! scheme which expired at the end of last month.
The scheme is aimed at helping companies recruit economically inactive individuals who want to re—enter the workforce. It supports the costs of implementing flexible work arrangements.
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