The Singapore government said on Tuesday that it would be increasing companies’ ease of access to funding for flexible working arrangements such as telecommuting and staggered shifts. An existing scheme, the Ministry of Manpower’s work-life grant, already offers S$2,000 in funding for every local employee who is on flexible arrangements for at least six months, up to 35 employees per firm.
Now, to assist companies that have shifted to remote work in compliance with the shutdown of non-essential workplaces, the government is lowering the grant criteria to cover local employees who are on flexible working arrangements for at least one month. Companies can start applying for the grant from April 20. Hence, those firms which implemented remote working even before the shutdown went into effect will easily qualify for the grant. Furthermore, the lowered requirements will apply even after the shutdown period ends.
Senior parliamentary secretary for manpower Low Yen Ling said in the Tuesday announcement that companies could use the amount to purchase equipment for telecommuting, including laptops and software. She also pointed out that companies that had already implemented flexible working arrangements before the Covid-19 outbreak were able to get their business continuity plans going faster.
This latest move might be seen as the carrot to the stick, announced earlier, that firms which do not implement remote working despite having the means could be penalized and even issued a stop-work order. However, given that the lowered criteria will stay even after the shutdown and, by implication, after the pandemic, it may also signal a sea change in Singapore’s presenteeist workplace culture.