Guide to Managing Flexible Work Arrangement Requests (For Employers)

Information for employers on managing flexible work arrangement (FWA) requests

Under the Tripartite Guidelines on Flexible Work Arrangement Requests (TG-FWAR): 

  • When requesting and using flexible work arrangements (FWAs), employees should do so responsibly; considering the impact on their workload and performance, as well as the impact on their team and clients, where relevant to their job role.
  • Where reasonably practical, employers should explore ways to accommodate FWA requests.
  • FWA requests should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis and need to be viable from the business point of view. 

What employers need to know about their TG-FWAR obligations:

Under the TG-FWAR, all employers will need to: 

  • Implement a process to manage formal FWA requests from employees.
  • Communicate the process of submission and management of these requests. 
  • Provide a timely response to formal FWA requests. 
  • While it is an employer’s prerogative to approve or reject FWA requests, rejections should be based on reasonable business grounds.
  • Use internal grievance handling processes to manage concerns and grievances if they arise.

Managing Flexible Work Arrangement (FWA) Requests

What is considered a formal FWA request? 

Under the TG-FWAR, employers are required to adopt a process for the submission and management of formal FWA requests, to harness the advantages of FWAs for your workforce and organisation. This process should inform employees of the information that should be included in a formal written FWA request, such as:   

  • The date of the request
  • The FWA requested for, including its expected frequency and duration
  • Reason for the FWA request
  • Requested start date and end date (if relevant) 

For greater efficiency, employers may provide a form/template for employees to fill in the key details required for a formal FWA request (Please refer to the link below for a template).

Some employers may have an existing effective process in place to manage FWA requests. If you already engage in discussions when employees make FWA requests, these formal and non-formal practices should continue if they work well. 

In particular, you should review your formal FWA request and management process, to ensure it is aligned with the TG-FWAR. If you do not have any existing process, you will still need to properly consider and respond to a formal FWA request, as stated in the Tripartite Guidelines.  

Employer Resources: 
Employers may use the Template for FWA Request Form from the TG-FWAR
Employers may adapt this Template FWA Policy for their organisation 

Employers should engage employees on their FWA requests

Both employers and employees are encouraged to discuss FWA requests in an open and constructive manner and come to a mutual agreement on how best to meet the needs of the organisation and employee.

As part of this discussion, employers are encouraged to consider the time sensitivity of the request. For example, urgent ad hoc requests may require a more immediate response, while more long-term FWA requests may require a deeper discussion between employer and employee. 

Employers should properly consider FWA requests 

When considering an employee’s FWA request, you should focus on the factors related to the employee’s job including: 

  • Impact on the business/organisation (e.g., impact on business operations, employee’s working conditions such as compensation, benefits and safety)
  • Impact on the employee’s performance of the job (e.g., performance expectations and assessment, suitability of the employee, needs of the job role)

Acceptance and rejection of FWA requests

Employers have the prerogative to reject employees’ FWA requests, and the rejection should be based on reasonable business grounds. 

Some examples of reasonable business grounds for rejection of FWAs are: 

  • Leads to significant increase in cost burden to the employer.
  • Detrimental to productivity or output; leads to significant decrease in the quantity or quality of individual, team or the organisation’s productivity or output, or negatively impacts the organisation’s ability to meet customer needs. 
  • Not feasible or impractical due to nature of job role, or there is no capacity to change other employees’ work arrangements, or requires the need to hire new employees, to accommodate the FWA request.

Employers should not reject FWA requests for reasons that are not directly linked to business outcomes. Some examples of unreasonable business grounds for rejection of FWAs are: 

  • Management does not believe in FWAs.
  • Supervisor prefers to have direct sight of employee in office to see if they are working, despite employee’s consistent satisfactory work performance.
  • Organisation’s norm is to not offer FWAs (e.g., staff have always been required to be in office during regular office hours, and organisation does not want to agree to FWA request in case other employees may make similar requests).

Employer Resource: 
It is helpful for employers to know their legal responsibilities when implementing new work arrangements (i.e., FWAs). You may read more here: Understand your Legal Obligations as an Employer.

Employers should communicate the decision on the formal FWA request within two months and discuss alternatives where needed 

Employers should ensure the following, when communicating the final decision to the employee:  

  • Respond in a timely manner; employers who receive a formal FWA request should provide a written decision to the employee within two months from receiving the request. 
  • If the request is rejected, employers should include the reason for rejection in the written decision.
  • Employers are also encouraged to discuss alternatives with the employee, if the FWA request is rejected. 

Employer Resources: 

Addressing concerns where mutual understanding cannot be reached 

If an employee feels that his/her request may be better resolved through other channels, this should be addressed through the organisation’s internal grievance handling procedure as far as possible. 

Employer Resources: 
Employers may refer to  Information and Resources on Grievance Handling  to put in place proper policies and processes to manage queries/concerns regarding FWA requests.

TAFEP’s monthly briefing: Flex@Work - Understanding the Tripartite Guidelines on Flexible Work Arrangement Requests

This session is designed for employers, supervisors and human resource professionals who want to understand the roles and responsibilities of employers and employees under the Guidelines and how they can adopt the TG-FWAR and implement FWAs more effectively.