The Labour Movement in Singapore, NTUC lays down a roadmap for more women to re-enter the workforce by proposing a programme that allows them to join a firm on trial period before they are formally employed. During this trial period, they will receive a salary that is covered by the authorities.
The “Returnship Programme” is one of the recommendations by the National Trade Union Congress (NTUC) made ahead of the Budget statement to be delivered on February 20, which calls for renewed support to encourage more women and older workers to return to the workforce, amidst challenging economic conditions and labour crunch.
Desmond Choo, Director of the Youth Development Unit at NTUC told TODAY, that women who have left the workforce often find it quite difficult to rejoin and jump back into work life, since a lot of them are quite apprehensive and not sure of what the job entails, work culture and so on.
The idea behind the launch of this programme is to get them try and join a job for two to four months, before deciding if they could carry on. During this period, they will also be able to test out the flexible work arrangements, such as telecommuting opportunities, to avail of the convenience while receiving a portion of their salary.
While NTUC doesn’t want to jump the gun, it hopes the Government would cover for the cost of wages accorded to women. The NTUC could pilot the programme with firms in the services sector. Similar programmes have been tested in the UK and Switzerland.
To run such a programme, firms would need a robust human resource management system and invest in developing a flexible working arrangement. In the long run, Choo expects this would be a worthwhile investment to retain key talent within the company.
NTUC further suggests that the programme provide career counselling and extend the Special Employment Credit introduced in 2011 budget to support employers employing older Singaporeans to firm that employ these women.
Also for workplaces to be friendlier towards older workers, the labour movement called for components of WorkPro to be enhanced. First rolled out in 2013, WorkPro was enhanced last July to encourage employers to redesign workplaces for older employees to work safely and easily, and offer flexible work arrangements, among other things.
NTUC deputy secretary-general Heng Chee How suggested having less stringent criteria for the age management grant in WorkPro so that more firms can apply for it. To narrow the gap between jobs available and the skills required, the labour movement suggested that the government with the NTUC’s future jobs, skills and training capability department and the Employment and Employability Institute (e2i) to share information on the National Jobs Bank.
By working together, they can identify the new skills needed and work with institutes of Higher Learning and private institutions to turn them into training requirements and hasten the roll-out of such programmes. This will better prepare workers for the future jobs, said NTUC.
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