Even though work flexibility is not an employee statutory right in Singapore, the government has been implementing guidelines to encourage companies to offer better work-life balance to their staff. Currently, any right to flexible work arrangements has to be mutually agreed between the employer and employee. The Tripartite Advisory on Flexible Work Arrangements (FWAs) sets out recommendations that employers are encouraged to follow regarding adopting flexible work arrangements. While the Advisory does not have the force of law, employers in Singapore observe and comply with it in practice.
Work from home
Employees requesting work flexibility should do so in writing and address the following points in their request:
- Type of work schedule and location
- Start and end dates for the proposed arrangement, if not permanent
- How the employer can contact the employee, what is the expectation on responsiveness to the team and customers, and how the employee will continue to deliver their work
- Alternative arrangements in case what they are proposing is not suitable or feasible
- Suitability and safety point about the alternative work location
The employer should be fair and objectively when evaluating employee's requests and communicate their decision promptly (generally within 21 days). If they decline the request, it is encouraged to document it and meet with the employee to inform them of the reasons for rejection and discuss alternative arrangements.
If the arrangement creates additional costs for the employer (workstation setup, broadband, etc.), it is at the employer's discretion to invest in the equipment or not. To assist with reasonable setup costs, employers may choose to give employees a one-off set up allowance. General home utilities such as electricity, gas, water and smoke detectors are usually the employee's responsibility.
Health & safety at home
Under the Workplace Safety and Health Act (WSHA), the employer must take reasonable measures to ensure employee health and safety. This does not fully transfer to employees working from home or telecommuting as it is not practical for the employer to ensure that all hazards in the employee's home are eliminated or mitigated. That is because the employer does not have control or management over the employee's home.
Employers are encouraged to conduct risk assessments of the home workstation, exercise due diligence and take additional measures to mitigate the risks such as refining relevant policies like insurance coverage or home working rules and regulations and communicating safe working procedures.
Employees are responsible for looking after their own health and safety at home, and should be mindful of the hazards that may exist. Employees may be eligible for compensation if the injuries sustained arose out of and in the course of work.
The employee has to organise and set up their work area so they can work safely. An employer may request them to provide photos of their work location and may organise a health and safety workstation assessment.
- Provide safe equipment to employees
- Provide information to help employees set up workstations ergonomically
- Make sure employees and manager and team members stay in touch in cases of emergency
- Share the same information, training and development opportunities to all employees
Security of information
Employers should talk to their team about how to follow privacy and security requirements for the type/classification of information they are allowed to access when working at home. All security policies that would apply to employees who are working in the office, also apply when employees work remotely from their homes. Employees may need to adjust the work they do or take extra precautions to protect the information, such as physically locking devices and information away if not in use.
Employees should keep all work information safe and secure and avoid using public WiFi networks.
Employees should minimise or eliminate risks by creating a good workstation that includes appropriate ventilation and light and clear path with no cords sticking up or furniture that might cause accidents.
To meet their responsibilities under the Health and Safety Act 2015, employees should:
- Only work from a location that is safe and suitable for working remotely
- Comply with all health and safety requirements
- Do not work during annual leave or sick leave specified on a medical certificate
- Take reasonable steps to keep the organisation’s technology, equipment and information safe and in working order
- Have a suitable workstation, including a desk and office chair
- Ensure the work area is free from distractions or confidentiality issues
- Take all reasonably practicable steps to ensure their safety while working from home. This includes any hazard management and reporting
- Install work equipment correctly and use it in the manner it is intended for
- Take all steps to keep any company equipment or technology safe and without damage
- Make sure lighting is suitable and sufficient
- Manage their time effectively and take appropriate meal and rest breaks, as per the terms of their employment
- Take steps to manage the risks that come with working alone such as scheduling regular meetings and catchups with the team to avoid isolation
- Notify line managers immediately for any sickness or work-related accidents
- Have access to a first aid kit
- Keep well hydrated
- Switch off their work devices at the end of the workday
- Go outdoors and exercise daily, if possible