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Chye Thiam Maintenance: How one company is tapping into a revolutionary flexible work programme to grow their business

The environmental cleaning firm works with NTUC to attract women returners.
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By Nicolette Yeo 21 Jun 2023


Model ID: 0acee51a-da97-4699-a0e2-71b00269e8b6 Sitecore Context Id: 0acee51a-da97-4699-a0e2-71b00269e8b6;


Singapore is poised to grow this year.


In its Economic Survey of Singapore First Quarter 2023 report, the Trade and Industry Ministry maintained this year’s GDP growth forecast at 0.5 to 2.5 per cent, with growth likely to come in around the mid-point range.


Yet the tight labour market remains ― there were 99,600 job vacancies across various industries in March 2023 according to the Manpower Ministry’s Labour Market Report for the first quarter of 2023.


Against this backdrop, many companies have been finding it difficult to expand or take on new projects due to the lack of manpower.


One such company is environmental cleaning firm Chye Thiam Maintenance, where women make up nearly 70 per cent of its 2,000-strong workforce. It is unionised under the Building Construction And Timber Industries Employees’ Union.


Chye Thiam Maintenance CEO Edy Tan shares how the firm teamed up with NTUC U Women and Family to harness the power of women returners to grow the company.


NTUC: Why did you decide to partner with NTUC on the C U Back at Work! (CUB) programme?


Edy Tan: During the school holidays and any time before [their children’s] examinations, some of these women staff will come to their supervisor to request to work at certain times of the day or certain days of the week.


This prompted us to think that maybe we need to have flexible work hours or flexible work arrangements in our organisation.


We understand that there’s a manpower crunch, and it’s not easy to get people, so we have to think outside of the box to make the job more interesting.


Why would women returners be drawn to the CUB programme?


The whole gist of the CUB programme is [to provide] flexible work hours. We are coming up with an application that allows the workers to select the location, the date they want to work, and the time of the day that they want to work.


It can be so flexible that as long as they work 44 hours a week, they can enjoy quite a substantial income.


We have flexible training as well, and there are seven modules they need to go through. The first is the confidence module which we created together with NTUC. We want to give them the confidence [to return to the workforce] because we understand that after stopping work for a while, the women returner might not have the confidence because the environment, the society, everything has changed.


The other six are the WSQ [Workforce Skills Qualifications] modules that are part of our industry [requirements].


They will be the elite workforce and can use their experiences before stopping work to be a caregiver.


We want them to come back to the workforce and be a leader in our group of people. That’s why they can command a different pay package compared to our normal group of workers.


How will the CUB programme benefit your company?


Our industry is always in need of people, especially now after COVID-19 [where] the activities are all back and the borders are open.


In fact, there are so many opportunities out there that we have [become] very selective [of the projects we choose] because we can’t get people.

But with this programme where we have flexible work arrangements, we are more confident that we can undertake the projects with this group of people coming in.


How did you overcome the challenges to redesign the in-person job?


Nowadays, we are moving away from a headcount-based contract to a performance-based contract.


As long as the worker can deliver the work, we are fine, and our customer is fine.


We now bring in technology, robotics, and sometimes artificial intelligence to make the work processes more efficient and productive.


As what’s shown in our CUB programme right now, we have candidates coming in.


In fact, we have many interested third parties engaging us to see how we can bring this programme to their areas.


To find out more about the CUB programme, contact or