Friday 20 June 2014

WorkPro: $10,000 grant for bosses who try flexi-work schemes

$170m WorkPro programme offers more incentives
By Joanna Seow, The Straits Times, 19 Jun 2014

MORE incentives for employers to try out flexible work arrangements and implement health programmes for workers will be rolled out from July 1.

Senior Minister of State for Manpower and Health Amy Khor yesterday announced enhancements to the $170 million WorkPro scheme, which funds companies so that they can help groups such as older workers and mothers get back to work.

Dr Khor said the enhancements are to entice companies and workers to use the existing resources.

"We want to encourage take-up and utilisation of these flexible work arrangements among the workers... so they can better meet their work responsibilities as well as personal needs," she said on the sidelines of a seminar on managing an ageing workforce.

"In this way, you can attract and retain more workers."

Take-up was slow when the scheme was launched in March last year. But Dr Khor said more than 1,000 companies have now taken advantage of the grants to help more than 4,800 workers.

Some of the changes were made after employers said they could not benefit from the part of the existing Work-Life Grant that provides up to $40,000 as a reimbursement for spending on flexi-work arrangements, as they did not incur any expenditure.

Now, companies can receive $10,000 just to try out flexi-work arrangements, and another $10,000 if they implement them throughout the workplace.

The maximum funding amount will remain at $40,000. It can be used to reimburse expenses such as creating infrastructure for a virtual private network so employees can work from home.

Companies applying for the Age Management Grant must have staff attend a new Workplace Health Promotion Facilitator course.

Welcoming the changes, Mr Mok Keng Houng, business manager of wholesale florist Ji Mei Flower, said his company wants to help workers stay healthy. "Mature workers have a lot of experience and know the business well, so retaining them is good for our business continuity," he said.

Mr Mok's company was one of six recognised for being age-friendly at the event at Raffles City Convention Centre, where the Tripartite Committee on Employability of Older Workers also launched a campaign to reinforce a positive view of older workers' contributions.

Tea lady Chan Lai Peng, 58, would like to have flexi-work arrangements, as her full-day job leaves her very tired when she gets home. "My husband grumbles a bit but helps me with the housework," she said. "For people with household commitments, flexible work would mean we can take care of both sides."

Key enhancements from 1 July 2014


Up to $160,000 per company over three years
- Now: Up to $40,000 reimbursement after implementing new flexi-work arrangements.
- From July: Up to $40,000 funding, including $10,000 to pilot flexi-work arrangements and $10,000 to fully implement them.
- Must have at least two forms of flexi-work arrangements.
- Now: Up to $40,000 per year if 30 per cent of workers use flexi-work arrangements.
- From July: Additional tier of up to $25,000 per year if 20 per cent of workers use flexi-work arrangements.
- Must have at least two forms of flexi-work arrangements and workers must use at least one form.


Up to $20,000 per company
- Now: Must have a re-employment policy and at least two types of age management practices.
- From July: Staff must also attend a Workplace Health Promotion Facilitator course and implement a standardised Health and Wellness programme.
- Must employ at least five mature workers.

Incentives added to WorkPro to encourage age-friendly practices
Firms that plan flexi-work arrangements, health schemes for older workers can benefit
By Laura Elizabeth Philomin, TODAY, 19 Jun 2014

More incentives to reward a wider pool of companies that are willing to implement and sustain age-friendly practices such as flexible work arrangements have been introduced to the Government’s WorkPro scheme, announced Senior Minister of State (Health and Manpower) Amy Khor yesterday.

Under the revised scheme, companies will receive a S$10,000 cash incentive under the Work-Life Grant for piloting such arrangements even if they do not incur costs and an additional S$10,000 if they proceed to implement them company-wide. Currently, they can only claim the grant after they have incurred expenses.

In addition, employers who achieve a 20 per cent utilisation rate for flexi-work arrangements in their company will be eligible for a S$25,000 cash incentive each year. At present, they have to achieve a rate of 30 per cent to receive up to S$40,000 per year. The changes take effect next month.

With Singapore having one of the most rapidly-ageing populations and a tight labour market, Dr Khor, speaking at the Age Management Seminar, highlighted the need to “adjust the work environment to better meet the needs of mature workers” while motivating companies to tap into this growing pool of workers who can offer a wealth of experience.

When asked if a low take-up rate was the reason for enhancing the programme, she said the objectives of WorkPro — first launched in April last year to improve workplace practices to attract and retain mature workers and back-to-work locals — have been met, with more than 1,000 companies applying for the scheme.

“We need to get feedback from our programme partners as well as employers to see how we can further improve these programmes. So we are enhancing it to further improve our support for employers and workers,” she added.

Other changes include two new compulsory health management programmes under the Age Management Grant that companies have to undergo to get the full grant, a bid to get companies to be more hands-on in creating workplace health programmes for mature workers instead of outsourcing such programmes.

To get the first tranche of the grant, companies must send an employee for the Workplace Health Promotion Facilitator’s Course, which will train staff to plan, design and evaluate workplace health programmes.

For the second tranche, a health provider must be appointed to carry out a survey of mature workers in the company to identify suitable health-related workshops for them.

The grants have been helpful, but they only go so far in addressing challenges in implementing flexi-work arrangements and job redesign, said employers TODAY spoke to.

Ms Tan Lee Lee, senior director of people development at The American Club Singapore, noted that such practices can be difficult for the hospitality industry. “Some of the jobs in our industry are very fixed. If you work in the kitchen, there is a fixed job ... The job redesign takes a longer period to implement, so those are the areas that we didn’t immediately jump on,” she said.

Ji Mei Flower business manager Mok Keng Houng echoed similar sentiments, saying cash incentives to defray costs of implementing schemes are helpful, but more could be done to offer companies greater guidance through sharing of best practices and consultation sessions.

As one of the six award winners recognised for exemplary efforts to implement age management practices under WorkPro, Mr Mok recognises the importance of retaining mature workers, with about 60 per cent of his 70-strong staff above 40 years old.

“They have a lot of experience and know the business very well. So it is very good for us in terms of business continuity because they are able to pass on their wealth of knowledge to the newer (employees),” he said.

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