A Tripartite Standard on Flexible Working Arrangements (FWAs) has been launched by Singapore’s Ministry for Manpower (MoM), in a move that reflects increasing demand by employees for this option.

Jointly developed by the MoM, National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) and the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF), the standard has been designed to recognise “the important contribution that FWAs make to a supportive and conducive work environment”.

“Implementing FWAs benefits both employees and employers,” read a statement by the MoM. “Employees are better able to meet their work-life needs. Employers are better able to attract and retain talent, and improve the productivity of their workforce.”

While many companies do currently offer flexible working, jobseekers and employees are often not aware of it, and don’t know how to go about requesting it, said the MoM.

“Progressive employers who publicly adopt this standard will inform their employees of the types of FWAs available, the process to request them and their expectations on the responsible use of FWAs,” said the MoM.

The ministry highlighted some of the concerns previously faced by employees, for example that their applications may not be evaluated effectively; if requests are turned down there would be no further avenues to discuss alternatives; and that those granted the use of FWAs may be not appraised fairly. It said the new standard would address these issues.

More than 250 companies have already signed up to the standard, as early adopters – at least one in five of whom are SMEs – meaning that more than 210,000 employees could benefit from the implement of FWAs.

The draw of flexible hours has been increasing throughout southeast Asia. A study by Hays earlier this year revealed the option was the top consideration for significant numbers of people seeking employment in Hong Kong.

The vast majority (87 per cent) of candidates said flexibility was one of the most important factors when deciding on an offer from a new employer. Only six per cent were unsure how important they felt flexible working options are.

Jobseekers in Malaysia were even keener on flexible work, with 89 per cent citing it as ‘very important’, but in China it was lower down the agenda – only 76 per cent surveyed felt the same way.

The flexibility offered by freelance or ‘gig’ work is also becoming increasingly popular in Singapore. A new report by Maybank Kim Eng has suggested that the city state’s growing gig economy has offset the impact of a weak jobs market, according to the Straits Times.

It said a growing proportion of the labour force, including young graduates or millennials, are part of the gig economy.

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