Flexible Work Policies Fall Short for Caregivers Returning to Work

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Flexible Work Policies Fall Short for Caregivers Returning to Work


3 min read

Source: Channel News Asia
Article Date: 24 May 2024

In 2023, approximately 89,500 locals, or about 8% of the non-working population, were out of the labor force primarily due to caregiving responsibilities. According to the Manpower Ministry's labor force survey, 86.3% of these caregivers were women.

Starting in December, all employers in Singapore are required to establish a process for employees to request flexible work arrangements, such as staggered hours and job sharing. Employers must thoroughly consider each request and provide reasonable business grounds for any rejections.

Quoting the article " Flexi-work guidelines not enough to return to the labour force, caregivers say " penned by Davina Tham, CNA:

" Mdm Kaur, who has worked in human resources for the past decade, said this made her decide not to bring up the possibility of working from home, in hopes of getting to the interview stage.

She was happy about the new guidelines as they gave her hope that employers would be more open to considering flexible workers like herself.

But asking about flexibility at the interview stage “will backfire”, said Ms Sher-li Torrey, founder of career portal Mums@Work, which supports working mothers by listing jobs with flexible work arrangements.

Ms Torrey based her observation on the experiences of some of Mums@Work’s 60,000 members. The new guidelines do not protect jobseekers looking for flexibility, she said, while noting that the move is meant to be one that normalises flexi-work over the long term.

She also observed that employees on flexible work arrangements may not experience “outright discrimination”, but that “subtle things” can be enough to signal the employer’s displeasure.

This may happen in cases where a manager is just implementing a flexible work arrangement that has already been decided, but without believing in the principles behind it, she said.

She gave an example of a Mums@Work member working in a small local business, who returned to work after having children and had an arrangement to leave the office at 4pm.

At 4pm every day, the woman’s manager would go to her desk and remind her to leave on time so that he would not be accused of mistreating her.

The woman’s employer supported the flexible work arrangement. But her manager, who did not like it, managed to “beat the system” by not directly criticising her, said Ms Torrey. "

This excerpt provides a nuanced view of the challenges and realities surrounding flexible work arrangements, especially for women balancing caregiving responsibilities. Mdm Kaur's reluctance to request work-from-home options highlights the fear that such requests could jeopardise her chances of securing a job. This sentiment is echoed by Ms. Sher-li Torrey, who emphasises that while the new guidelines may foster a more open attitude toward flexible work in the long term, they do not offer immediate protection for jobseekers who need flexibility.

Ms. Torrey's observations point out a significant issue: the discrepancy between policy and practice. Even when flexible work arrangements are in place, subtle forms of resistance from management can undermine their effectiveness. The example of a Mums@Work member being reminded to leave on time by a displeased manager illustrates how attitudes, rather than official policies, often determine the success of flexible work arrangements.

Overall, the excerpt underscores the need for not only formal guidelines but also a cultural shift in workplaces to truly embrace and support flexible working practices. Without genuine buy-in from all levels of management, such policies may fall short of their intended goals.

Source: Flexi-work guidelines not enough to return to the labour force, caregivers say

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