Government Schemes to Improve Staff Work-Life Balance
Human resource is undeniably the highly valued resource of any business. Rest assured, conscientious employees backbone the most successful companies. As such, employee retention has become a major concern for most corporate as well as the human resource professionals in the fast-paced business world. Maintaining work-life balance has become a more and more important goal for almost every employee and Singaporean government is encouraging employers to cultivate and promote a good work-life balance in their company. In this regard, the Ministry of Manpower has launched specialised funds that Singapore companies can tap into in order to develop and implement strategies of a balance work-life.
This article aimed to provide a detailed guide on the funding schemes that are available to Singapore companies in order to improve the work-life balance of their employees.
What are Work-Life Strategies?
In the effort to create a positive work environment, work-life strategies are the special antidotes for a company to address work-life balance in the workplace. Through a broad lens, a work-life balance describes the healthy blend of an employee’s professional and personal responsibilities. It’s about the right portion of everything in life. Having said that, different organizations have different work-life strategies based entirely on the employee’s profile, the nature of work of the company, and specific job’s scope and responsibility that the companies offer to their staff. Work-life is the practice of providing initiatives designed to create a more flexible, supportive work environment, enabling employees to focus on work tasks while at work. Therefore, a fulfilling, well-planned and flexible work-life strategy is important for both the employer as well as employees. Flexible work arrangements, leave benefits as well as employee support schemes are among the concerns that have been included in the work-life strategies.
Why Do Work-Life Strategies Matter?
Work-life strategies are important to create a more productive workforce, which will, in turn, benefit the economy as a whole. For a country like Singapore, where the success of the nation lies in the hands of labor force, a positive workplace is crucial to boosting the productivity and to ensure the performance of workforces are always up to par. Furthermore, human resource challenges like older workers, more women in the workforce, extended working hours, increased number of dual-earner family, tight labor market and declining birth-rate are among the reasons that support the implementation of work-life strategies in Singapore.
The bottom line is, effective work-life strategies will definitely impact the company in different ways, such as in work performance, direct and indirect costs related to absenteeism, costs related to the loss and replacement of valuable employees, customer satisfaction, organizational productivity as well as the corporate image.
Funding Schemes for Implementing Work-Life Strategies
According to a survey by International Firm in 2011, work-life balance ranks as one of the most important workplace attributes ahead of salary at the workplace among 110 employees in Singapore. However, a more recent survey by global recruitment & Payroll services provider, Randstad reveals that striking a perfect work-life balance has always been a challenge for most of the employees in Singapore. The coupling of increased workloads with technology that keeps them constantly connected to their jobs finds an increasing number of workers feeling overwhelmed, discouraged and depleted. Another survey by recruitment firm Hays in 2010 confirms that majority of Singaporeans think that work-life balance is possible and achievable but with a flexible employer. Evidently, there is a growing need to implement work-life strategies in Singapore. In this light, Singaporean government has launched grants as ways to encourage companies to have a positive workplace with work-life strategies. The Work-Life Grant consist of two components: Developmental Grant and FWA Incentive.
Aimed to help the implementation of flexible work arrangements (FWAs), the Work-Life Grant is open for companies who wish to implement the said “flexi plans” by introducing flexi-time, flexi-place and part-time work at their workplace. The most common flexible work arrangements are flexible hours or flexi-time schemes. (e.g changes to start and finish times) and changes to work patterns (e.g job sharing which is a structured form of part-time work, with various models).
i. Developmental Grant
The Developmental Grant replaces the previous Work-Life Works! (WoW!) Fund. Introduced in April 2013, Development Grant is an incentive launched to help company to achieve a greater height by implementing work-life strategies. It’s a one-time grant (up to $40,000 per company) that could help the employer to realize the goal of achieving a work-life balance working environment in their organization. Employers could utilize the grant to bear any costs incurred on the work-life strategies plan which include training, consultancy and infrastructure purposes. Employers who have just started on their work-life plans or who are keen to do so are eligible for this grant.
- All local companies can apply for WorkPro if they are legally registered or incorporated in Singapore. This includes societies and non-profit organizations such as charities and voluntary welfare organizations.
- Note that companies that have previously benefitted from the WoW! Fund and wish to apply for additional developmental assistance can only receive up to a $20,000 from the Developmental Grant. This is provided that they meet all the qualifying criteria and put in place work-life strategies or FWAs that have not already been implemented or covered in their previous work-life projects funded by the WoW! Fund.
- The appointment a project leader and a work-life champion for its work-life project is a must before applying for the fund. The project leader is the key person who is responsible for performing the project and liaising with the MOM on behalf of the company while the work-life champion is responsible for the success of both the project and the grant and he or she should be a senior management member. In some cases, the work-life champion can also act as the project leader.
About the Grant
A $10,000 Developmental Grant would be given to companies that pilot at least two new FWAs or substantially enhance two existing FWAs. Another $10,000 would be given to companies that formalize the piloted FWAs into policy. Expenses incurred on the FWA pilots are covered can claim for reimbursement (capped at $20,000 in total) based on the following percentages:
- Up to 80% of expenditure on work-life training and work-life consultancy
- Up to 50% of expenditure on IT infrastructure for FWAs and selected employee support schemes such as lactation facilities
- Steps to Implement FWAs
- Evaluate certain FWAs that are suitable for implementation.
- Survey and understand employees’ work-life needs in order identify suitable FWAs through a needs analysis.
- Roll out a FWA implementation plan which includes a communication plan to engage employees.
- Assign at least one employee/employer to complete the work-life training [that includes the implementation and management of employees] on FWAs.
- Try out at least two new FWAs and/or substantially enhance existing FWAs with at least 10% of the total workforce, or a minimum of five employees for at least three months.
- Monitor the FWAs and consult relevant stakeholders on the FWAs’ effectiveness before making any refinements.
ii. FWA Incentive
FWA incentive is meant for employers who have implemented some or many FWAs, in other words, a proportion of their employees are already using FWAs on a regular basis.
- When considering eligibility, all Singapore legally registered private organizations including education organizations, non-profit organizations as well as companies are eligible for the grant application.
- Have formalised HR policy on two or more FWAs recognised under the Work-Life Grant and have communicated the HR policy to all employees.
- To receive subsequent tranches of payouts, the company must sustain current FWA utilisation rates at the workplace.
- Half of those utilising FWAs must be Singaporean employees.
- No more than six in 10 employees counting towards the 20% or 30% FWA utilisation requirement can be on the same FWA type.
About the Grant
- Employers can receive a FWA Incentive of up to $120,000 (disbursed in three tranches over three years) if they sustain the FWA utilisation rate among their employees.
- The grant computation is based on the number of Singaporean employees benefitting from FWAs. Eligible companies can receive $10,000 for the first five Singaporean employees using FWAs regularly and an additional $1,500 per additional Singaporean employee using FWAs regularly (from the sixth Singaporean employee onwards).
iii. Flexi-Works! Fund
Flexi-Works! is a grant given to business with the purpose to encourage employers to recruit staff on a part-time basis or on flexible work arrangements such as staggered hours, flexi-time, job sharing, telecommuting, and alternative work schedules. A grant of up to S$100,000 is available for companies to apply in order to implement flexible work arrangements. The Flexi-Works! Fund is an initiative by the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA), in partnership with the National Trade Union Congress (NTUC) and Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF). Companies that are interested can apply for the fund by contacting the NTUC or SNEF.
- What costs does the Flexi-Works! Fund cover?
The grant can be used for cost incurred on job redesign, consultancy, recruitment, training, absentee payroll and equipment or the implementation of part-time or flexible working arrangements. Note that the grant cannot be utilized for any form of retention bonus or salary support.
- How does the Flexi-Works! Fund work?
Funding will be disbursed in two tranches:
– Tranche 1: Under Tranche 1 companies can claim up-to S$10,000 for implementing flexible work arrangements. This is subject to
- a) the company sending HR staff for MOM-approved Work-life training;
- b) flexible work arrangements are included as part of the HR Policy; and
- c) all staff are well-informed with this policy. The grant amount will be based on 80% of the actual expenditure, capped at S$10,000 per company.
Note that companies can only apply for reimbursement of costs. Since this tranche is the same as the first tranche of the Wow! Fund (i.e Common Tranche explained above), companies can only tap on this tranche once, either under the WoW! Fund or Flexi-Works! Fund.
– Tranche 2: Under Tranche 2 companies can claim up-to S$90,000 for recruiting staff on part-time or flexible work arrangements basis. This is subject to
- a) fulfilling the requirements of Tranche 1; and
- b) recruiting local workers, 60% of whom should have been out of work for at least 3 months and who are all aged 30 years and above. The grant amount will be based on:
- Number of staff recruited on part-time or flexible working arrangements and retained for at least two months multiplied by S$1,500; or
- 80% of the declared project costs, whichever is lower, subject to a cap of S$90,000 per company.
On a Final Note
Work-life strategies are a toolkit to create the win-win situation for both organizations and employees. What’s more, work-life practices have a positive effect on firm performance when these make an improvement for efficiency and worker productivity, and when revenues generated are greater than the costs to carry out its implementation, benefitting the economy as a whole.
Singapore stands out from other economies due to its quality of workforce. As such, it is of crucial importance for all business sectors especially among SMEs, as they comprise of individual small sized workforces that operate in a highly competitive market, to implement work-life strategies in their workplace. The introduction of funding schemes such as the WorkPro Fund and Flexi-Works! Fund of the Singapore government ensures that companies and employees could embrace the maximum benefits due to the implementation of work-life balance programs.
At 3E Accounting
As we continue to endeavour to serve you better, we are also focused and committed to make a difference in other non-profit area such as good social corporate responsibility and fair employment practice.
We fully support fair employment practice and strongly believe that only by going the extra mile in this area, will we be able to create a good cycle of happy staff – happy customer effect. We are seriously putting our extra effort in this area such as among others offering work-life balance to staff which is also in alignment with the government’s call to promote this win-win situation for both employers and employees.
We are honoured to have the Senior Minister of State, Mrs Josephine Teo, visited our headquarter office in Singapore on 28 November 2016 to understand more on what we are promoting. This definitely is an endorsement of our effort and will motivate us to do even more in this area.
For our role in supporting and encouraging good social corporate responsibility, we take it seriously and give back to the society where we can. We are aspired to make positive contribution to the society by invigorating lives of people through different forms of corporate social responsibility initiatives.
Come experience it yourself and stay with us for us to be your well-deserving partner while you build your business empire.