A guide to the upcoming flexible work arrangements in Singapore

Flexible working arrangements in Singapore: Are you ready for the new mandatory guidelines?

The global trend in supporting flexible working arrangements remains strong in a post-COVID-19 world, as regulators and employers address challenges in the form of workforce transformation and advances in digital technology. Increasingly, employers are realising key benefits from allowing this greater flexibility; such as cost-savings due to the need for less office space and gaining access to a wider talent pool, which is important in a tight labour market. These positive impacts are seeing employers be more receptive to giving their employees flexibility in choosing where and when to work.

Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower announced in April 2024 the implementation of the Tripartite Guidelines on Flexible Work Arrangement Requests (the Guidelines), which will be effective from 1 December 2024. The Guidelines set out how employees should make a formal request for flexible work arrangements (FWAs), how employers and supervisors should handle those requests, and the minimum requirements employers must abide by to remain compliant with the mandatory Guidelines. 

What is a flexible working arrangement?

FWAs are work arrangements where employers and employees both agree to a variation from the standard work arrangement. The Guidelines set out the following three broad categories of FWAs:

  • Flexi-Place – where employees work flexibly from locations outside of the office.
  • Flexi-Time – where employees work flexibly at different timings, with no changes to total work hours and workload.
  • Flexi-Load – where employees work flexibly with different workloads and with commensurate remuneration.

How to request flexible working arrangements – key steps

  • The employee submits a formal FWA request – at a minimum, the formal FWA request must state, in writing, each of the following four requirements:
    • the date of the request;
    • the FWA requested (including its expected frequency and duration);
    • the reason for the request; and
    • the requested start and end date (if relevant).

    If the employer has instituted a process for employees to make a FWA request (for example, through a HR or company portal), the employee must follow that process in order for their request to be classified as a formal FWA request.

  • The employer should properly consider the FWA based on business needs (set out below).
  • The employer should communicate its decision within a timely manner in writing; at most, within two months. Any clarifications and discussions concerning the request should also be made within the two months.
  • If the FWA request is rejected, the employer should include the reason for doing so in writing and is encouraged to engage the employee on other alternatives.

    The employer may refer to Annex B of the Guidelines for how a formal FWA request could be responded to.


The Guidelines only extend to:

  • Employees who have completed probation. However, employers can consider FWA requests from employees on probation.
  • Employees who have made a formal FWA request. Hence, if the employee does not satisfy the requirements for a FWA, it will be considered a non-formal FWA request and will not be covered by the Guidelines.

Factors for employers to consider:

When considering FWA requests, employers should consider factors pertinent to the employee’s role and the potential impact of the requested FWA on both the business and the employee’s job performance. Rejection of FWA requests should be grounded solely on reasonable business considerations, such as cost implications, productivity or output concerns, or practical feasibility, rather than personal biases against flexible working practices. Decisions that are influenced by a preference for traditional working arrangements, or a reluctance to depart from established customs, would be considered unreasonable grounds for rejecting a FWA request. 

How to prepare for the implementation of flexible working arrangements in Singapore?

  • Employers should start to devise a process for eligible employees to submit formal FWA requests and inform their workforce of the same.
  • Employers may consider implementing a formal policy for FWAs to streamline FWA requests or enquiries, detailing:
    • the types of FWAs available;
    • the guidelines for stakeholders (i.e. senior management, employees, supervisors and human resources) to consider in ensuring the successful implementation of FWAs; and
    • a code of conduct or expectation for the effective implementation of FWAs.
    • As far as reasonably practical, employers should explore ways to accommodate FWA requests, such as reviewing work processes or re-assigning work across team members, so that the company remains productive.

Are you ready for the new flexible working arrangements?

In introducing the new flexible working arrangements, the Singapore Government has purposefully chosen the route of mandatory guidelines, rather than enforcing the arrangements through legislation. Ms Gan Siow Huang, the co-chair of the tripartite workgroup, who made the recommendations to the Government and also the Minister of State for Manpower, said that a decision was made to introduce mandatory guidelines instead of legislation because of the need to be “administratively light”. She reiterates that the focus is on enabling and equipping workplaces, employers and employees, so that flexible working arrangements can be implemented in a sustainable way.

While the Guidelines are not law, and employers are permitted to reject (with reasons) FWA requests, employers who do not follow the Guidelines may be issued with a warning by the Ministry of Manpower and errant employers required to attend corrective workshops.

If you are wondering how to effectively implement the FWAs for your workplace or would like to have a chat to find out more, please contact our Singapore-based colleagues Vincent Tan and Prashaanth Rajandran, working in the offices of JurisAsia LLC with whom Gowling WLG has an exclusive association. We acknowledge, with thanks, the contributions of Ashley Tok, practice trainee to this article.

Temporary relief for contractual obligations under the COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) Act 2020

Businesses and individuals around the world have been affected by unprecedented and unforeseeable supply chain disruptions, manpower shortages and cashflow issues arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. In his speech on the COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) Bill, Law Minister K. Shanmugam noted the increasing difficulties of businesses and individuals in fulfilling their contractual obligations due to the COVID-19 outbreak. To complement the financial schemes, grants and reliefs announced by the Singapore Government in the Resilience Budget and Solidarity Budget on 26 March 2020 and 6 April 2020, the COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) Act 2020 (“Act”) was passed on 7 April 2020.

Temporary relief from financial distress situations under the COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) Act 2020

Through the three budgets as announced by the Singapore Government, a total of S$9 billion will be disbursed to businesses and individuals in April 2020 to counter the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the business community in Singapore. Businesses and workers in Singapore will receive reliefs through various measures announced by the Singapore Government in the Solidarity Budget and Reliance Budget, through the enhanced Wage Credit Scheme, Foreign Workers Levy, and the Jobs Support Scheme.