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May 2, 2024
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Flexible Working Arrangement (FWA) guide for employers in Singapore

Recently, Singapore’s Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP) announced and issued the new Tripartite Guidelines on Flexible Work Arrangement Requests (Guidelines) on 16 April 2024. Effective from 1 December 2024, these guidelines mandate minimum requirements for all employers in Singapore to consider formal requests for flexible work arrangements (FWAs) from employees fairly.

Emphasising the importance of FWAs in enhancing work-life balance, productivity, and overall well-being, these guidelines signify a growing recognition of their pivotal role in the workplace. Read on as we explore this topic further, providing valuable insights, tips, and resources to effectively manage the upcoming Flexible Working Arrangements (FWA) in your organisation!

What are flexible working arrangements (FWA)?

Flexible Working Arrangements (FWA) refer to work arrangements where employers and employees mutually agree to deviate from the standard work arrangement. These can include changes in work hours, location, or workload to accommodate individual needs and preferences. 

Why is flexible working arrangements (FWA) increasingly important these days?

With societal shifts and technological advancements reshaping the way we work, FWA has emerged as a critical tool for fostering employee satisfaction, attracting top talent, and improving organisational agility. Recognising the diverse needs and preferences of today's workforce, FWA enables employers to create inclusive and adaptable work environments.

What are the types of flexible working arrangements (FWA)?

FWAs are work arrangements where employers and employees agree to a variation from the standard work arrangement. FWAs may fall into one or more of these three broad categories:

  1. Flexi-place

Employees work flexibly from different locations aside from their usual office location (e.g. telecommuting, work-from-home).

  1. Flexi-time

Employees work flexibly at different times with no changes to total work hours and/or workload (e.g. flexi-hours, staggered hours, flexi-shift, compressed work schedule).

  1. Flexi-load

Employees work flexibly with different workloads and with commensurate remuneration (e.g. job sharing, part-time work).

Who qualifies for a flexible working arrangements (FWA) request?

Under the new guidelines, all firms and employees who have completed probation are eligible to request FWA. This inclusive approach reflects Singapore's commitment to empowering workers and fostering a culture of flexibility and innovation in the workplace.

What are the 10 recommendations for the Tripartite Guidelines on Flexible Work Arrangement Requests?

The government has approved these 10 recommendations put forth by the Tripartite Workgroup on the Tripartite Guidelines on Flexible Work Arrangement (FWA) Requests. These mandatory guidelines aim to establish appropriate norms and expectations concerning FWAs, outlining the process for employees to request FWAs and employers and supervisors to manage these requests.

  1. Establish clear workplace norms for FWA requests and considerations, managing expectations and obligations for both employers and employees.
  2. Focus the Tripartite Guidelines on Flexible Work Arrangement Requests (TG-FWAR) on guiding the process of requesting and considering FWAs, not determining the outcome of requests.
  3. Require employers to consider FWA requests based on business grounds and encourage responsible requests and usage by employees.
  4. Apply the TG-FWAR specifically to formal FWA requests, documented, and contain necessary information for informed decisions.
  5. Extend coverage of the TG-FWAR to all employees who have completed probation, with probation duration determined by employers.
  6. Clarify that FWA requests from jobseekers are not required, but employers can communicate their FWA approach in job advertisements and interviews.
  7. Ensure TG-FWAR inclusivity by covering all employers, including SMEs, with provided guides and templates for compliance assistance.
  8. Take an educational approach to TG-FWAR implementation, equipping employees and employers with skills and resources for effective FWA requests and considerations.
  9. Enhance communications and engagement to help employers understand the business benefits of FWAs and increase awareness of available FWA types.
  10. Support employers in FWA implementation capabilities through expanded resources and training tailored to different firm sizes, sectors, and work natures.

Employers are required to comply with these guidelines upon their implementation on 1 December 2024. They are designed to facilitate easier FWA requests for employees while recognising that employers retain the authority to determine work arrangements.

Are employers required to provide flexible working arrangements (FWA)?

Yes, all employers are required to comply with the above guidelines and establish a process enabling employees to request flexible work arrangements from 1 December 2024. These guidelines aim to streamline FWA requests for employees while acknowledging that employers have the authority to determine work arrangements.

While employers have the right to decline such requests, any decision should be substantiated by valid business reasons like cost or productivity considerations.

What are the important considerations for implementing flexible working arrangements (FWA)?

Due to the nature of FWA, there are some considerations that you should learn before implementing it for your company:

  • Certain FWAs may lead to changes in work scope and responsibilities, potentially resulting in prorated salaries and benefits. Learn how to manage salary per day if your employee opts for a flexi-time approach with “Calculate salary per day guide for employers in Singapore”.
  • Determine how performance evaluations were conducted during the FWA. Consider transitioning to an online performance appraisal system to streamline the process and facilitate remote evaluations with our effective performance appraisal system guide.
  • Before applying for an FWA, discuss feasibility, expectations, key performance indicators (KPIs), and deliverables with your employee to ensure clear communication.
  • The employee should inform co-workers and customers in advance about their working arrangements to minimise disruptions and remain accessible during work hours.
  • Establish regular check-ins with your employee, team members, and clients to discuss progress and maintain alignment on goals.
  • Utilise technology tools for communication and collaboration, such as video conferencing and instant messaging, regardless of location. Explore our “Top 10 collaboration tools for remote teams” as your guide to implementing a successful FWA.

How do employees request flexible working arrangements (FWA)?

  1. Submission of formal FWA request

The employee initiates the process by formally submitting a Flexible Working Arrangement (FWA) request to their employer. This request should be documented and include details such as the proposed changes to working hours, location, or workload, as well as any supporting reasons for the request.

  1. Communication of decision within 2 months

Upon receiving the FWA request, the employer is expected to acknowledge receipt and communicate their decision within a reasonable timeframe, typically within 2 months. This time frame allows both parties to engage in constructive dialogue and ensures a timely resolution.

  1. Proper consideration based on business needs

It is incumbent upon the employer to thoroughly evaluate the FWA request, taking into account the operational requirements and business needs of the organisation. Factors such as the impact on team dynamics, customer service, and overall productivity should be carefully assessed to make an informed decision.

  1. Engagement on alternatives (if request is rejected)

In the event that the FWA request is rejected, the employer is encouraged to engage in open and transparent communication with the employee to explore alternative solutions. This may involve discussing other possible arrangements or compromises that align with both the employee's needs and the organisation's objectives.

What are the possible reasons for a flexible working arrangement (FWA) request rejection?

Employers may reject FWA requests due to various considerations, such as:

  • Cost: results in a substantial increase in the financial burden for the employer.
  • Impacts on productivity or output: cause a significant decline in the quantity or quality of individual, team, or organisational productivity or output. It may also hinder the organisation's ability to meet customer demands effectively.
  • Feasibility or practicality: not feasible or impractical due to the nature of the job role, or there's insufficient capacity to adjust other employees' work arrangements.

What happens in cases where employers refuse to comply with the guidelines?

In situations where employers persistently refuse to adhere to the guidelines, displaying reluctance or wilful non-compliance, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) may take corrective action. This may involve issuing a warning to the employer and mandating their attendance at corrective workshops to ensure compliance with the guidelines.

What should I include in the flexible working arrangements (FWA) request policy?

In crafting a comprehensive Singapore flexible working arrangements (FWA) request policy, consider including the following key components:

  • Policy scope and purpose: clearly define the scope of the policy and its purpose, outlining the organisation's commitment to promoting work-life balance and flexibility in the workplace.
  • Eligibility criteria: specify the eligibility criteria for employees to request FWAs, such as tenure, performance, and job role suitability.
  • Types of FWAs: outline the various types of flexible working arrangements available within the organisation, such as flexi-time, telecommuting, compressed workweek, and part-time work.
  • Request procedure: detail the process for employees to submit FWA requests, including the required documentation, timelines for submission, and the designated contact person or department responsible for handling requests.
  • Assessment and approval process: describe how FWA requests will be assessed and approved, emphasising fair and objective evaluation criteria based on business needs, operational requirements, and employee performance.
  • Communication and feedback: establish clear communication channels for employees to receive updates on their FWA requests and provide feedback on the process.
  • Training and support: provide training and support for managers and supervisors to effectively manage teams with FWAs, including strategies for remote collaboration, performance monitoring, and communication.
  • Monitoring and review: implement mechanisms for monitoring the effectiveness of FWAs in achieving organisational goals and regularly review the policy to make necessary adjustments based on feedback and changing business needs.
  • Compliance and accountability: ensure compliance with relevant labour laws, regulations, and industry standards related to FWAs, and establish mechanisms for addressing non-compliance and resolving disputes.
  • Resources and support: offer resources and support to employees to help them navigate FWAs successfully, such as access to technology tools, ergonomic support, and wellness programmes.

Otherwise, you may download the template policy for Flexible Work Arrangement provided by the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP) for guidance in formulating your own FWA policy!

Is there a template to request a flexible working arrangement (FWA) request?

Employees can use this template to craft a formal written request under the Tripartite Guidelines on Flexible Work Arrangement Requests. 

Simplify the process of submitting the FWA request with this downloadable template.

Can employees submit formal FWA requests via their HR portal?

Absolutely! Employees have the option to submit formal requests through their organisation's HR portal. While this method streamlines the process, it's essential for the employer to remind employees of the formal request procedure and encourage them to use the designated channel, such as the HR portal, for submission. This ensures that requests are properly documented and processed in accordance with company guidelines.

Other command FAQs about flexible working arrangements (FWA)

Will an employee’s career prospects be affected if he/she takes up flexible working arrangements?

Prior to adopting FWAs, both parties should collaboratively define performance expectations and deliverables. Managers, in line with the Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices, should employ fair and empathetic appraisal systems to assess FWA outcomes and performance criteria. 

Given the potential for FWAs to redefine work scopes and responsibilities, fostering open and warm discussions between employees and supervisors is key, ensuring alignment on feasibility, expectations, and deliverables.

Would the employee be eligible for work injury compensation if he/she gets hurt outside the office while working?

Employees may be eligible for compensation if the injuries sustained arose out of and in the course of work.

Nonetheless, it's crucial for employees to take reasonable care of  their health and safety while working outside the office. Employers should also take reasonable steps to educate employees on ensuring their safety when working remotely.

Tip: For comprehensive information on work-related injury compensation, refer to the “Work Injury Compensation Act (WICA) Guide for Employers in Singapore

Can an employee request flexible working arrangements (FWA) during the notice period?

An employee can request flexible working arrangements (FWA) during the notice period. However, the feasibility of implementing such arrangements may depend on various factors, including the terms of the employment contract, the nature of the job role, and the employer's policies. It's advisable for employees to discuss FWA requests with their employers in advance to assess the possibility of accommodating them during the notice period.

Tip: For more tips on managing notice periods effectively, please head over to “Notice period guide for employers in Singapore”.

Easily keep track of attendance with Payboy HR & Payroll software!

Managing attendance across various departments and locations can become complex, especially with the increasing adoption of flexible working arrangements. However, Payboy’s Time Attendance module is designed to simplify this task by providing centralised attendance monitoring.

  1. Centralised monitoring: Payboy's Time Attendance module centralises attendance tracking, allowing you to easily monitor attendance across all departments and locations from one unified platform.
  2. Unified platform: you can conveniently view and manage attendance data for all your outlets on a single platform, eliminating the need to switch between multiple systems or platforms.
  3. Ease of accessibility: access your attendance records anytime, anywhere. Whether you're in the office, at home, or on the go, you can easily retrieve attendance data through the provided free templates or custom reports tailored to your specific needs.
  4. Customisable reports: Payboy offers customisable reports, allowing you to generate attendance reports that fit your organisation's unique requirements. Whether you need daily, weekly, or monthly reports, Payboy's flexible reporting options have got you covered.
  5. Integration with HR & Payroll: Seamlessly integrate attendance data with Payboy's HR & Payroll software. This integration ensures accurate payroll processing based on real-time attendance data, reducing errors and saving time.

Additionally, to effectively manage your global team, Payboy offers valuable tips that enhance your HR and payroll processes. These insights cover strategies for streamlining communication, fostering collaboration, and ensuring compliance across different regions. With Payboy's comprehensive solutions and expert guidance, you can optimise your global team management, improve accuracy, and enhance overall efficiency in your organisation's HR processes.

For more insights on managing your global team with Payboy, you can visit 5 Tips to Manage Your Global Team with Payboy HR & Payroll Software.

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