Singapore government increases funding for flexible work schemes

More employees will be covered, in attempt to boost work-life balance for women

Employers will find it easier to get financial help to trial flexible work arrangements from July, following the decision to extend and enhance Singapore’s work-life grant, which was due to expire this month.

During an International Women’s Day event last week, Second Minister for Manpower Josephine Teo said the expansion was aimed at helping women achieve a more positive work-life balance.

The work-life grant began in 2013 and has been used by more than 1,500 companies that employ more than 100,000 workers.

The grant offers employers S$2,000 (£1,096) per employee annually for the first five employees and S$1,500 for the subsequent 20 employees, to cover the costs of introducing flexible working.

After receiving feedback from companies, Teo said three significant changes would be made to the grant scheme.

First, employers will find it easier to apply. Previously, at least 20 per cent of a company’s employees had to be working on a flexible work arrangement to be eligible. The enhanced scheme requires each company have just one employee working on such an arrangement.

The amount on offer will also be increased, reaching S$2,000 per employee per year over two years, for up to 35 employees.

The government has also recognised that it is harder for employers to make flexible work arrangements for professional, managerial, executive and technician (PMET) jobs.

In the enhanced scheme, companies that provide job sharing for PMETs will be eligible to receive S$3,500 (£1,918) per employee.

“The higher grant per employee on flexible work arrangements, including job-sharing, will provide more upfront support to help employers take the first step to encourage their employees to adopt flexible work arrangements,” said Teo.

The Singapore government has reportedly set aside a budget of S$30m (£1.6m) over two years to support the work-life grant.

The announcement comes in the wake of news that around 430,000 more PMETs will be covered under the Singapore Employment Act with the removal of the salary cap.

On 5 March, Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say said that the removal of a S$4,500 (£2,466) salary cap and other amendments to Singapore’s primary labour law will be introduced later this year for implementation by April 2019.

Under the revisions, PMETs will receive guaranteed core employee benefits under the Act, including redress for wrongful dismissal, public holiday and sick leave entitlements, maternity and childcare leave, timely payment of salary and allowable deductions. Currently, only those earning under S$4,500 come under the Act’s core provisions.

Lim said the changes to the Employment Act were needed as the percentage of PMETs continues to grow. “Our workforce is changing fast. We now have more PMETs and fewer rank-and-files. This trend will continue. ...With PMETs making up 56 per cent of the local workforce now, going up to 65 per cent by around 2030, it is timely to make a more fundamental change to the coverage [of the Act].”

The Act, which came into force in 1968, was last reviewed in 2012, and the most recent amendments came into effect in 2016.

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