THE Government should legislate flexi-work, giving eligible employees the right to ask for such work arrangements and making it a duty for employers to consider their requests, Ms Irene Ng (Tampines GRC) suggested yesterday.

She said such a move would force companies to hurry and offer flexible working arrangements.

"Unless the right to apply to work flexibly is enshrined in law, companies will continue to resist the request to provide flexible work arrangements," she noted.

And helping people achieve good work-life balance is key to boosting the birth rate, making the country more liveable and giving Singaporeans a greater sense of belonging, she said.

"We have often spoken about the importance of helping our workers to enjoy a work-life balance but the reality on the ground is that the demand for productivity, to meet growth targets, to cut costs, to take on multiple tasks, is incessant and is being translated to longer hours and more stress for our workers."

She also said the Government will be injecting even more stress into society if it continues to encourage Singaporeans to marry early, have more children and work hard, but then fails to create a strong and consistent work culture which supports families.

Ms Ng supported the call by Dr Janil Puthucheary (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC) for free travel on public transport before peak hours.

But the move will need to be accompanied by flexi-work, because if people were to go to work at 7.30am, they should be able to leave by 3.30pm, she said.

Her sentiments were shared by Workers' Party MP Lee Li Lian (Punggol East), who said many workers worried that their bosses would lose confidence in their ability to do the job if they asked for flexi-work arrangements.

"We need to support a shift in mindsets, which can be brought about if the Government takes meaningful steps to institutionalise better flexible work practices," she said.

Ms Lee reiterated her call for an independent commission to be set up to look into work-life balance practices.

The aim would be for the commission to lead public discussions on family-friendly work practices, develop research and promote global best practices on work-life balance, she said.

The commission should also help to develop resources to help businesses create a more pro-family environment, she added.

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