Ensuring local workers stay competitive is key to normalising flexi-work: Gan Siow Huang


Ms Gan and the business associations also sought to clarify the tripartite stance on four-day work weeks, after this was mentioned in foreign media reports about the guidelines.

In general, Mr Ng said that SNEF’s endorsement of the guidelines was based on three principles: That employers have the prerogative to decide whether to grant a flexible work arrangement request; that the arrangements must not negatively impact productivity and service quality; and that not all roles and jobs are suitable for all forms of flexible work arrangements.

He stressed that the tripartite guidelines do not advocate a four-day work week and do not mandate any outcome or prescribe any form of flexible work arrangements on businesses.

“Treat it as a tool to facilitate the discussion so as to benefit both parties, so that there is a way for these (flexible work arrangement) requests to be put through,” he said, adding that companies were expected to continue emphasising a “strong organisational culture”.

Elaborating on this, Mr Ng pointed out that Singapore’s economy is globally connected, and depends on the workforce “being active and being very flexible”.

“I would hesitate if this whole suggestion of a four-day (work week) becomes a widespread culture, because there may be huge consequences on businesses and the economy,” he said.

“To look at whether it’s suitable, I would suggest that we really look at the role itself and the nature of the company, rather than to make it a general kind of culture.”

An example that meets the intent of the guidelines would be if a senior worker wants to retire, but agrees to stay on a four-day work week basis so the company can continue to benefit from his experience and plan succession, added Mr Ng.

Ms Gan said that given Singapore’s labour shortage, it would be difficult for employers to accommodate a four-day work week.

“There might be some companies out there that are able to. That’s good for them, if they’re able to manage their work process, the nature of their work, that they can implement it. So be it. But I don’t see that becoming the norm,” she said.

Employers who can implement a four-day work week for an employee without affecting output or hiring more workers may be able to carry on without reducing the employee’s pay, said Ms Gan.

But if the employee’s productivity and responsibilities are reduced as a result of flexible work arrangements, it would be fair to consider a reduction in remuneration, she added.

ASME’s Mr Ang noted that a four-day work week can take different forms. One that involves shorter work hours without a reduction in pay would not work for most businesses, and the request would be “flatly rejected”.

Companies have to assess the flexible work arrangement requests that they receive within certain boundaries of productivity and effectiveness, he said, but in the longer term, there are many options in performance management and job design to consider.

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