SINGAPORE – Nearly 2,600 firms with a combined workforce of about 660,000 have adopted at least one of a set of standards to promote good employment practices in the last two years.

This covers about one in five workers in Singapore.

While voluntary, the standards help complement existing workplace regulations to improve working conditions, Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said on Monday (July 29).

Launched in July 2017, the standards stipulate good practices that employers can adopt in their workplaces.

There are eight standards covering various aspects of employment. The three that are most popular have to do with flexible work arrangements, recruitment practices and the employment of contract workers, she said.

Mrs Teo was speaking to reporters on the Tripartite Standards during a visit to ComfortDelGro Taxi’s CityCab building in Sin Ming Avenue.

The top three sectors that have adopted the standards are infocomm technology and media, professional services and the wholesale trade sector, she said.

On the take-up rate so far, Mrs Teo said: “We would like to have more, but it is a good start… I think it provides a good foundation to draw more companies into the programme.”

When companies agree to comply with the standards, the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (Tafep), which administers the scheme, monitors compliance through feedback channels such as from the firms’ employees.

Tafep will work with companies that fall short of the standards to address any issues.

If a company still fails to meet the standards it has subscribed to, it will not be allowed to use the Tripartite Standards logo, but will not face any other penalty.

The seal of approval is a way to publicly recognise progressive employers.

Mrs Teo said the voluntary nature of the standards was a calculated decision to ensure flexibility.

“Our aim is really to improve the working conditions of as many workers as possible,” she said.

“But updating laws alone will not nearly go far enough because we also have to make sure that things that are put as mandatory requirements don’t become too rigid for companies,” she added.

While Mrs Teo did not rule out introducing more employment standards in the future, she said the focus will be on improving working conditions in companies that have subscribed to the current standards and reaching out to more companies to do so.

“We don’t want to proliferate standards for the sake of proliferating them, it’s not so meaningful to do so,” she added.