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Recent advances in information technology and changes in social and economic relationships have led individual workers and organizations to explore various types of distributed work arrangements (Venkatesh and Vitalari, 1992, p. 22). One of these working arrangements is Flexible Working Arrangement (FWA). FWA are practices and policies of an organization that allow workers to have an option to where and/or when they need to work. The perception of allowing employees their choice as when to start and finish their working times was first introduced in Germany in 1967. At that time, FWA was seen as a means of reducing commuting time problems. Shortly after, FWA began to gain adherents in Switzerland as a way to attract women with family responsibilities into the workforce. Hence, "Flexible working arrangements in firms have been identified as one important means of balancing work and other commitments" (O'Connell, P.J., McGinnity, F., and Russell, H. 2009). FWA major objective is to enable the company's employees to manage their work better without compromising their family responsibilities. FWA includes part-time or reduced working hours, flexitime, job sharing, compressed workweeks, family-related leaves and other leaves, career breaks, and teleworking. These working arrangements are also often referred to as family-friendly, work-family, or more recently work-life policies (Cooper and Robertson, 2003). This FWA implies an employee focus, but the extent to which these policies primarily benefit employees or employers, especially in the 24/7 economy (Presser, 1998). However, FWA has also become subject of dispute in the workplace because of its negative impact into the workplace which leads to the misunderstanding among colleagues and among employee and employer.
1.2 Overview of Flexible Work Arrangement in Singapore
FWA has increased in Singapore but it has not established widely in the country. These are the findings from "Conditions of Employment, 2008" reported by the Ministry of Manpower's Research and Statistics Department on the results of the Labour Market Survey conducted in mid 2008 (Ministry of Manpower, 2008). In addition, FWA in Singapore is more motivated towards operational efficiency rather than employee's welfare. This is evidenced by the relatively greater use of part-time and temporary working as compared to other flexible work arrangements like flexi-time and job sharing (Manpower Research and Statistics Department, January 22, 1999).
2.1 Conditions of Employment in Singapore
Employers are going away from the fundamental statutory requirements to offer a range of family friendly benefits, one of this is the use of FWAs here in Singapore. Because of the growing number of women in the labor force and the social weight put upon to women to continue a primary role in the family, the Singapore government has sought to generate a balance between these two roles. Cherlyn Granrose stated that, Singapore has promoted various policies and initiatives to create direct and indirect long-standing impacts on the position of women and the welfare of the Singapore society at large (2005, p. 129).
In the past decades, there has been a boost in share of improved qualified workers who preferred more constructive leave benefits and this has led to an increase in the percentage of employees who are entitled to at least 15 days of paid annual leave from 31 percent in 1992 to 39 percent in 2008 in the private sector. Including the public sector, the share was slightly higher at 41 percent in 2008. The proportion of private sector employees on FWA increased from 5.1 percent in 2006 to 7.4 percent in 2008. Together with the public sector, the number of employees on FWA was higher at 9.4 percent in 2008, elevated by a significant percentage of public sector employees on staggered hours.
An enormous proportion of organizations granted non-statutory leave benefits such as marriage leave and compassionate leave to their employees. 85 percent of establishments granted compassionate leave while 70 percent gave marriage leave. A significant proportion of establishments also granted paternity leave 47 percent to their employees. The five day work week continued to be the norm, with a higher quantity of employees now on this arrangement than two years ago (from 43% in 2006 to 44% in 2008). The six day work week (18%), five and half day (15%) and shift work (14%) accounted for less than one in five employees each in 2008 in Singapore.
Flexible work arrangement in Singapore can be seen in different kind of industry but is more preferred in the commerce sector (Kochan amd Ladsbury 1995, p. 68).
2.2 Tripartite Programs for Flexible Work Arrangement in Singapore
Tripartite program is the accumulated end results of the collaboration among the three actors (government, union and management) in Dunlop's model. Ministry of Manpower (MOM) in Singapore has been encouraging companies to introduce Best Work-Life Practices which include Flexible Work Arrangement (FWA). Tan Chwee Huat points out that, Flexible Work Arrangements (FWAs) are offered by companies to enable its employees to better manage work and family responsibilities (2007, p. 359). Last August 2004, the National Tripartite Advisory Panel (NTAP) has issued sets of guidelines on Family Friendly Work-Place to support and encourage different organizations to practice such practices and these guidelines cover two areas: the basic principles on adopting family friendly workplace practices and employing pregnant employees and those with young children.
The general principle of these practices is to treat and retain employees based on their merit and not because of their conditions (pregnancy, childbirth or maternity leave). Tan Chwee Huat stated that, employment practices and benefits should be fairly applied to all categories of workers which includes staff who are not covered by the Employment Act, as well as employees on non-traditional work arrangements such as those in flexi-time arrangements (including part-time) and contract (2207, p. 361).
Tan Chwee Huat also added that, Employers should ensure that all employees are eligible to be considered for available FWAs (2007, p. 359). Nevertheless there are jobs that are not suitable for FWA, as a result the tripartite committee comes out with different guidelines prior to the implementation of FWAs.
2.2.1 Tripartite Guidelines on Flexible Work Schedules
To guarantee that the execution of FWS is in the good interest of both employees and employers, guiding principle has been issued to companies which can be apply to MOM for permission to implement FWS.
The Guidelines are as follows:
Reasons for Implementing Income Stability
Occupational Safety and Health
Gain Sharing for Employees
Consent form Unions an Employees
Regular Review and Renewal, of Exemptions
These guidelines are useful not to abuse this type of working arrangement and to make sure that this arrangement is cater to the most deserving employees who truly need this type of working arrangement to go back into the workforce. FWS also benefit employees, Tan Chwee Huat states that, while employees may face possible loss of overtime pay, they are assured of a stable monthly income and greater job security (2007, p. 365).
2.3 Impact of Flexible Work Arrangement to ER System in Singapore
The Steering Committee suggested that, a good employment relation involves different approaches and different value judgments about relationship at the workplace (NB, 185b). In Singapore context the four main examples of FWAs are: flexi-time, compressed work schedule, part-time and teleworking and this type of arrangements comes with negative and positive impact into the workplace.
2.3.1 Advantage of Flexible Work Arrangement
FWA allows responsible workers the flexibility to plan their own work schedules, boosts morale, and strengthens loyalty to the firm. Hence, FWA enables companies to boost productivity and competitiveness as well as to minimize retrenchments during economic downturn. FWA attracts women to get back into the workforce without compromising their household and parenting responsibilities. However, offering flexible work arrangements can involve a paradigm shift for organizations, especially smaller ones that may not have the critical mass of technology, budget, management and competitive flexibility necessary to make extensive use of flexible work arrangements (Bliss and Thornton, 2006, p. 21).
2.3.2 Disadvantage of Flexible Work Arrangement
FWA comes with problems and challenges: It places a heavier weight on managers in terms of supervision and scheduling of employee's working time; some staff may resist its implementation, especially if certain amount of scope and tolerance has already been permitted under the existing system. In addition certain employees will be excluded from the flexible time arrangement in order to maintain the business flowing, and this might cause offense among those that have not selected from this arrangement.
Singapore is slow in adapting FWA as FWA is a new concept in Singapore compared to other Western countries. However, exercising FWA enables organizations to attract and retain talents who are assets to the company and the main contributor in helping their organizations to achieve success in the long-run. In every new programs and/or arrangements in organizations comes with its negative and positive effects in ER systems. A thorough understanding prior to the implementation of each arrangement is a must to meticulously consider avoiding negative issues in the workplace.
Therefore, FWA must be implemented without compromising the company's goals and objectives. Prior to the implementation of FWA, organizations should plan on the key issues in consultation with their CEOs and relevant employees such as HR and other executives in the company. Some of the key issues are: eligibility criteria of the individuals, compensation and benefits, career structure and prospects, training and development, and the right of the employee to return to full time work.
Employment relation issues towards flexible work arrangements in Singapore could be addressed by the interaction of the government, unions and management or otherwise we called Tripartism. The positive end results of FWAs should aim to enhance the ER systems in Singapore, which would help increase the Singapore Company's productivity. With all the companies in Singapore being productive, the Singapore economy will be productive as well, which will benefit the Singapore people at large. Any organizations should not discriminate workers because of their family responsibilities, instead organizations should concentrate on the employee's merit. FWA is one of the good arrangements in an organization because it helps to build a family-friendly program where you don't need to sacrifice your time for your family in exchange to give them a financially stable life. A good employment relation means understanding what the workers' need and not only the employers' need.