More firms tapping into Government grant promoting flexi-work arrangements

April 15, 201610:31 am407 views
More firms tapping into Government grant promoting flexi-work arrangements
Office workers at Raffles Place in Singapore. (Photo: AFP/Roslan Rahman)

More firms are tapping into a Government grant that provides incentives for companies to offer flexible work arrangements. The Government is also looking into providing support for sectors finding it hard to implement such work arrangements.

The Work-Life Grant provides funding and incentives for companies to offer flexible work arrangements. There were 287 applications for the Work-Life Grant in 2014. In 2015, the number jumped to 549.

The Manpower Ministry added that the proportion of employers, with at least 25 employees, providing at least one form of Flexi-Work Arrangement (FWA) has steadily increased from 28 per cent in 2008, to 47 per cent in 2014.

In April 2013, the Developmental Grant under the Work-Life Grant was launched to help defray the implementation costs for the formal adoption of FWAs. From its launch till December 2015, there have been 325 applications. About 95 per cent of the applications were from small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

The ministry said SMEs would typically require a year or more to pilot and formalise FWAs. So far, 39 companies have formalised Flexi-Work Arrangements and claimed the grant. The ministry expects more companies to do so in 2016.

AN EARLY ADOPTER OF FAMILY-FRIENDLY POLICIES

Homegrown firm Absolute Kinetics Consultancy (AKC) is among the early adopters of family-friendly policies. Despite a staff strength of only 80, about 20 per cent of its staff are on some form of flexi-work – either working from home or part-time.

It also has innovative policies, such as allowing staff to leave work early once a month. The initiatives have helped the company halve its attrition rate to about 20 per cent annually. However, as an SME, there are concerns over manpower crunch.

Mr Alvin Yap, manager of human resources at AKC, said: “Of course (when) launching different kinds of initiatives and benefits, you will see staff not being in the office on certain days. So what we did was we introduced a scheme, Job Sharing. (For example), my customer service department works closely with the marketing side, dealing with customers on the frontline. So we cross-train them so that they can cover each other.

“Initially, when we launched the Job Sharing scheme, we were a bit sceptical whether people will want to pick up a second skill or secondary job. I’m quite surprised that most of them are quite receptive of this.”

SECTORAL BASED FLEXI-WORK ARRANGEMENTS

While FWAs, like telecommuting, can work for office workers, it is a bit more difficult for production-based staff. Therefore, moving forward, the Government will take a more targeted, sectoral-based approach on sectors finding it challenging to implement flexible work arrangements.

“We know that different industries face structural issues,” said Mr Desmond Choo, MP for Tampines GRC and director of NTUC. “So say, for example, in a very production-based, shift-work kind of environment, they usually find it quite difficult to do so because how do you do a compressed work week, or how do you telecommute when you need to man the production line, or if you need to drive a bus? You cannot drive a bus faster, it is not possible.”

Mr Choo, who spoke about the issue in Parliament, said work is already underway with sectors like transport, logistics and hospitality. The idea is to have trade associations and unions act as intermediaries, with some form of wage support from the Government.

Mr Choo said: “We have some companies, which are going to roll it out quite soon, where they have a combination of both production-based and office-hour staff. So what they intend to do is that, (for example) in the later stages of pregnancy, up to the point where the mother has given birth, up to a year – they say ‘can I shift some of these shift-based workers to office-hour staff’?

“You can train them and prepare them for it. So we saw that it is possible within a single entity, a large one, where they can shift workers around. In a sectoral approach, one possibility (is), can we group all these companies with a similar nature? So that all of them are facing similar issues and then you have the trade associations, the unions involved.”

Added Mr Choo: “There can be certain arrangements, Government support. Certain mothers, who find that it is suitable for (them) to explore a career within the unions or trade associations; to spend a year there, contribute to the industry growth and then come back to the original place of work. So I think it’s about how innovative and creative we really want to be. It is possible.

“We need Government agencies to come in and say ‘We are willing to support this programme through funding’, ‘We are willing to test it out and pilot it to see if it works’.”

The Manpower Ministry said this sectoral-based approach to help firms implement FWAs will be launched in the second half of 2016.

news source: channelnewsasia.com

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