The announcement of the Tripartite Standard on Work-Life Harmony is a welcome inclusion to the tripartite partners’ growing list of advisories, standards and guidelines (Boost for work-life harmony with new tripartite standard, April 27).
However, the underlying issue with the implementation of these standards still exists: They are simply recommendations that companies can take note of but not implement.
The new work-life harmony standard is premised on the idea that the better the work-life balance an employee has, the more motivated and productive he is.
While there is an enormous amount of evidence to support this, it also runs counter to a common workplace culture idea in Singapore that equates the employee’s presence with productivity.
Despite the release of the Tripartite Standard on Flexible Work Arrangements in 2017, flexible work arrangements became commonplace in Singapore only due to Covid-19.
While last year saw almost four in five companies adopt at least one formal type of flexible work arrangement, only about half had done so in 2019.
Furthermore, the introduction of flexible work arrangements or extended leave schemes does not necessarily guarantee better work-life balance for workers, unless these policies are implemented in earnest, and that earnestness is communicated to all members of a company.
A hostile company culture may greatly affect the take-up rate of flexible work arrangements, even if the company officially offers them to its employees.
Workers may be deterred from even applying for a flexible work arrangement or extended leave scheme out of fear that it will affect their future performance evaluations, or cause them to be discriminated against by their co-workers or superiors.
While I recognise that individual companies have individual business needs and requirements, the flexibility of implementing these standards should extend only to their specific implementation and not to whether the company chooses to implement them at all.
If it is at all reasonably practicable for a company to adopt flexible work arrangements, offer extended leave schemes, or improve employee support, then it should not simply be encouraged to do so, but should be required to do so by law.