Council Meetings (Question): Measures to Promote Work-life Harmony (2018.03.21)

MR CHAN KIN-POR (in Chinese): President, in view of the heavy work pressure faced by working persons, the Singapore Government established in 2000 a Tripartite Committee on Work-Life Strategy, with members drawn from the government, the business sector and employees. The Committee is dedicated to the formulation of strategies and measures to promote work-life balance for employees. In addition, the Singapore Government provides a Work-Life Grant, capped at $160,000 per company, for local companies to implement flexible work arrangements, such as flexi-time, flexi-place and part-time work. There are comments that the implementation of such measures by the Singapore Government has not only helped relieve the work pressure of working persons, but has also facilitated the country in attracting international talents and enhancing its international competitiveness. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council whether:

(1) it will examine extending the scope of the current family-friendly employment practices, which are family-oriented, to cover work-life balance measures needed for personal development, so as to take care of employees’ needs in family and personal life; if not, of the reasons for that;

(2) it will consider sending officers to visit Singapore to understand the implementation of work-life balance measures by local companies and the effectiveness of such measures; if so, of the details (including timetable); if not, the reasons for that; and

(3) it will make reference to the practices of Singapore, and examine (i) the establishment of a strategy committee with members drawn from the Government, the business sector and employees, and (ii) the setting up of funds to subsidize local companies in implementing flexible work arrangements for employees, with a view to promoting work-life balance for employees; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?

SECRETARY FOR LABOUR AND WELFARE (in Chinese): President, the Government has been actively encouraging employers to adopt good human resource management measures and to implement family-friendly employment practices (“FFEPs”) with a view to helping employees maintain a balance between their work and family commitments. Moreover, the Government is greatly concerned about employees’ occupational safety and health including the pressure faced at work.

My reply to the question raised by the Member is as follows:

(1) Through a wide range of publicity channels and various promotional activities, the Labour Department (“LD”) has been actively encouraging employers to adopt employee-oriented good human resource management measures, including the implementation of FFEPs. Employers are encouraged to implement suitable work arrangements and support like flexible working hours, five-day work, work from home, counselling service on stress or emotional management, recreational activities for employees and their family members, etc. This will help employees balance their work and family life and fulfil responsibilities and needs at their different stages of life. LD will continue to promote a culture on good human resource management and encourage employers to adopt FFEPs at workplaces through extensive promotion such as publications, large-scale seminars, roving exhibitions, newspaper feature articles, periodicals of major employers’ associations and trade union federations, public transport network as well as regular meetings and exchanges with business executives and human resources managers.

In addition, the Home Affairs Bureau and the Family Council are committed to fostering a pro-family culture and environment in partnership with various sectors in the community. Since 2011, the Home Affairs Bureau and the Family Council have launched the biennial “Family-Friendly Employers Award Scheme” (“the Award Scheme”) to recognize and encourage employers adopting diversified FFEPs. According to the Home Affairs Bureau, the fourth Award Scheme has been launched with newly added award items to promote and encourage the adoption of more diversified and flexible FFEPs.

(2) and (3)

In order to raise employees’ alertness and awareness about work stress and their understanding of proper ways to manage work stress, LD and the Occupational Safety and Health Council through a range of services and activities assist employers and employees in establishing a good working environment and creating a harmonious working atmosphere to prevent organizations and employees from being adversely affected by work stress. LD, from time to time, sends staff to field trips to other places and to attend international conferences, to actively engage different governments and international organizations to exchange with them their latest developments and experiences in occupational safety and health protection. LD will take into consideration the Member’s suggestion on the field trip destination in planning future exchange programmes.

At the same time, the Government has no plan to establish a new committee to specially promote the work-life balance or set up of dedicated funds for flexible work arrangements. In fact, different industries and enterprises have their unique business requirements and modes of operation, and family needs and preferences of the employees may also vary. Therefore, LD encourages direct consultation between employers and employees to jointly contemplate and adopt FFEPs that are most appropriate and can serve the best interests of both the enterprise and their employees.

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