Employers are required to respond to requests for flexible work arrangements within two months, providing reasons if the request is denied. Starting in December, when new tripartite guidelines are introduced, all employers must establish a formal process for employees to request flexible work arrangements.

These guidelines stipulate that employers must issue their decisions on such requests within two months. Although employers can decline these requests, they must justify their decisions with valid business reasons related to cost or productivity. The guidelines also outline what are considered unreasonable grounds for refusal.

The guidelines were launched on April 15 following the government’s approval of recommendations from a tripartite workgroup formed eight months earlier to explore flexible work arrangements.

The need for these guidelines was emphasized by Minister of State for Manpower Gan Siow Huang, who cited Singapore’s tight labor market and aging population, with an increasing number of people assuming caregiver roles.

Minister Gan highlighted that flexible work arrangements are crucial for maintaining a robust workforce in Singapore, allowing caregivers and seniors the option to continue working.

By 2030, about one in four Singaporeans will be over 65, with the employment rate for seniors currently at 30.6%. Women’s workforce participation increased to 76.6% last year, though approximately 260,000 economically active women remain outside the workforce, often due to caregiving responsibilities.

The tripartite workgroup, led by Minister Gan, Ms. Yeo Wan Ling of the National Trades Union Congress, and Mr. Edwin Ng of the Singapore National Employers Federation, consulted various stakeholders including businesses, trade associations, unions, and community organizations focused on women, fathers, and seniors.

Minister Gan explained that the decision to introduce guidelines rather than legislation was to adopt a progressive approach to flexible work arrangements, focusing on equipping and enabling workplaces for sustainable implementation.

She noted the guidelines are designed to be administratively light to facilitate mandatory adoption across all employers. Non-compliance could lead businesses to lose competitive edge and result in advisement from the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP).

In severe cases of non-compliance, the Ministry of Manpower may issue warnings and mandate corrective workshops.

The guidelines, effective December 1, apply to all employers and employees who have completed probation. They cover three types of arrangements: flexi-place, flexi-time, and flexi-load, and govern the process—not the outcome—of requests for long-term, formal flexible work arrangements.

Employers are encouraged to manage expectations through job advertisements and interviews, and to consider each request based on job-related factors and business impact. They should not reject requests on grounds unrelated to business outcomes, such as personal biases or organizational traditions against flexible work arrangements.

Employers must communicate their decisions in writing within two months and discuss alternatives if a request is denied. Disagreements should ideally be resolved internally or with union support.

Support will be provided to employers through initiatives like the Productivity Solutions Grant and training in job redesign and performance appraisal to help implement flexible work arrangements effectively.


If you would like advice about employment-related matters, you may visit https://singaporeemploymentagency.com/. You can also email us at [email protected] with regards to employment and other company-related matters.


Yours sincerely,

The editorial team at Raffles Corporate Services