04 July 2022 Parliamentary Replies

Written Reply to Parliamentary Question on plans to permanently implement flexible work arrangements for public sector

Written Reply to Parliamentary Question on plans to permanently implement flexible work arrangements for public sector

Parliamentary Sitting: 4 July 2022

Assoc Prof Jamus Jerome Lim: To ask the Prime Minister whether there are plans to permanently implement flexible work arrangements for the public sector such as three days in the office and two days at home.

Written Reply by Mr Chan Chun Sing, Minister for Education and Minister-in-charge of the Public Service.

Many public agencies have adopted the Tripartite Standard on Flexible Work Arrangements (FWAs) prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the past two years, the Public Service widely adopted telecommuting, which is one form of FWA, as part of safe management measures during the pandemic. 

Telecommuting has helped to enhance productivity, such as by removing the need for officers to travel for meetings, and can support those with caregiving responsibilities to achieve a better balance between work and their caregiving duties. However, there were also downsides. Working virtually for prolonged periods of time could weaken team cohesion and make the inculcation of Public Service values more difficult.

With the recent Multi-Ministry Taskforce (MTF) announcement that 100% of employees can return to workplace from 26 Apr 2022, the Public Service has taken the lead and transited to a new working arrangement. For officers whose work allows for telecommuting, officers can do so for an average of 2 out of 5 days per work week. Public Service agencies can decide how best to implement this, in line with their operational considerations. As of now, we assess that up to half of the jobs in the Public Service can be suitable for telecommuting.

Other than telecommuting, the Public Service also allows officers to stagger their work hours where the nature of work permits. Officers can start work before or later than the usual start time, and correspondingly finish work earlier or later. Such flexibility would be useful for those with caregiving duties at home. Staggered work hours, if implemented more widely, can also help to reduce peak hour traffic congestion and time spent travelling to and from work.

For jobs where telecommuting or staggered work hours are not practical, where operationally feasible, Public Service agencies can exercise flexibility and discuss other forms of FWAs with officers who need it. Such arrangements include part-time work, which can support officers in balancing their work and personal circumstances. We encourage officers that require such FWAs to proactively discuss the possibilities with their supervisors and HR departments.

The Public Service’s stance recognises that the COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed the way we live and work, and supports the tripartite efforts by the Ministry of Manpower, National Trades Union Congress and Singapore National Employers Federation to boost the adoption of FWAs.

To ensure that the Public Service continues to deliver high standards in this new work environment, PSD had also issued guidelines to reinforce the expectations of work standards and to promote good supervisory practices such as outcome-based performance management.

The Public Service seeks to uphold its service standards, effectiveness and productivity while enhancing the well-being of our officers. As an agile organisation, we will continue to review and improve the way we work as our operating landscape changes.