On top of existing policies that encourage employers to voluntarily offer flexible work arrangements (FWA) and family-friendly leave, more must be done to ensure that such workplace support becomes a norm for all workers.
This was the call made by NTUC Women & Family (WAF) Unit Director Yeo Wan Ling on 10 February 2023, ahead of the Singapore Budget announcement next week.
Ms Yeo, who is also the NTUC U SME Director, emphasised the need for companies to redesign jobs with family-friendly policies, to help workers balance their caregiving and work commitments.
“In 2022, an estimated 260,000 women of economic age were not participating in the workforce due to caregiving responsibilities. How can we attract them back to the workforce or stay in the workforce?
“Employers will need to redesign the role to cater for FWAs that may include part-time or staggered work hours,” she said.
Ms Yeo spoke about how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed attitudes towards FWA. In 2020, the percentage of firms offering at least one formal flexible work arrangement rose from 53 per cent to 78 per cent.
By 2024, a set of tripartite guidelines on FWA will be put forward as the Government aims to create a norm in the workplace where employees can request for flexible work arrangements while still allowing the employer to accept or reject the request based on their business needs, Ms Yeo said.
She also highlighted the need for employers to provide a safe workplace for all employees.
“Employers play a key role in steering the culture of the organisation. There is a need to enable staff to feel safe with a workplace free from harassment and discrimination,” said Ms Yeo.
Finally, Ms Yeo also spoke about WAF’s “Better Workplace” campaign, which aims to recognise and reward progressive employers who are committed to implementing work-life harmony initiatives
The campaign will provide tangible benefits for workers in these progressive workplaces, such as wellness corners and lactation spaces.
Ms Yeo was the guest of honour at Bells Academic Group’s event to unveil its “wellness corner.”
This initiative is just one of the company’s initiatives to create a positive and supportive work environment for its employees.
The company also advocates for FWA and other practices that promote work-life harmony to support its staff.
Karen Lim, 62, is a sales executive with Bells.
She shared that returning to work after being a homemaker for three years was daunting. She was glad the company offered her flexible work arrangements, allowing her to work part-time for three months before moving on to a full-time role.
The company also trained her and provided a one-on-one buddy system to enable her to adapt to the work culture. This allowed her to juggle her caregiving duties as well as work commitments.
“I have found happiness in this job. My colleagues have become like family,” Karen said.
The same sentiment was shared by another Bells staff, Cara Ng.
The 32-year-old single mum of two boys has been with the company for one year. She has found the company to be a supportive workplace that allows her the flexibility to attend to her duties at home when needed.
“I am grateful. Our bosses, our CEO, they are all very nice. It gives you that feeling whereby you want to do well for this company,” she said.