Work-from-home (WFH) arrangements are set to become a more mainstream option for Singapore workplaces even after the COVID-19 pandemic, but the government will not rush into making “hasty legislation” to facilitate them.
It will instead focus on helping employers and employees with resources to help them implement WFH arrangements in a practical and sustained manner, said Gan Siow Huang, Minister of State for Manpower, during Parliament on Tuesday (11 January).
Gan was replying to questions from Members of Parliament Yip Hon Weng (Yio Chu Kang) and Louis Ng (Nee Soon) on whether WFH will become a permanent feature even as COVID-19 restrictions are relaxed; whether the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) will look into introducing new legislation to improve the welfare of WFH employees; and whether MOM intends to retain existing work from home legislation and make the right to work from home the new normal.
The tripartite partners have partnered employers and unions to promote flexible work arrangements, she said.
“We have formed the Alliance for Action on Work-Life Harmony last year… to exchange best practices and develop implementation resources that are suited to companies’ sectoral needs.
“The tripartite advisory of mental well-being at workplaces was also introduced in 2020, and one of the key recommendations was for employers to set reasonable expectations of after-hours work communication, such as not requiring employees to respond to non-urgent work-related messages and emails after certain hours.”
Uncertainties in outcome of legislating right to work from home
Gan said that, in 2020, three in four employees worked in firms that provided some form of remote working.
The number of workers with access to such flexible arrangements has also increased over the years. even before the pandemic. In 2019, 53 per cent of employers offered at least one formal flexible arrangement on a regular and sustained basis, up from 47 per cent in 2018.
Gan also responded to Ng’s supplementary question on what is stopping the government from legislating the right to work from home.
In other countries that have introduced legislation to allow employees to work from home upon request, the outcomes have been mixed on whether it has made a substantial improvement in their work life, she added.
“It’s important that we take a practical approach towards this. We should be mindful that a single solution may not suit every sector and may not suit every job out there.”