How to Hire Remote Employees for Your Singapore Company
What is Remote Working?
Remote working, also known as telecommuting, is a working style that allows professionals to work outside of a traditional office environment (flexi-place). With this location flexibility, remote employees may work from their home offices, in cafes, co-working spaces, or even in a different country altogether.
Remote working therefore forms part of Flexible Work Arrangements (FWAs) which have taken centre stage in today’s society due to the gig economy and the COVID-19 pandemic.
For employers who wish to hire remote employees (located in Singapore as well as foreign countries), here are several things you might want to consider. This article will cover:
- Why might employers wish to consider hiring remote employees?
- The process of hiring remote employees
- The Tripartite Standard on Flexible Work Arrangements (FWAs)
- Considerations for organisations that wish to hire remote employees
Why Might Employers Wish to Consider Hiring Remote Employees?
Some benefits of hiring remote employees include:
- Attraction and retention of employees: Offering FWAs such as remote working might make you a more attractive employer as there may be employees who prefer working from home.
- Greater work-life balance and increased productivity for employees: Your employees may be able to enjoy a better work-life balance. The decrease in commute time means that employees will be able to have more time to rest and recharge, increasing work productivity. Those with young children or elderly parents will be able to better perform their family responsibilities because they can be at home more often. For some employees, eliminating office distractions, such as colleagues talking to each other, may also increase work performance.
- Tackle issues related to manpower crunch: You will have access to a larger manpower base and talent pool. This is because you may have the option of employing those who are unable to commit to office-based work due to family responsibilities or other reasons.
- Better preparedness for emergency situations with greater ease: Implementing FWAs will allow your company to quickly commence business continuity plans during times of crisis. For example, where your employees cannot work from the office because it has been destroyed by a fire. This way, your company will already have the infrastructure and experience required to efficiently execute remote working.
- Need not invest in a physical office space: Not only does this help you save on the capital costs of setting up a business, it also reduces the amount of money spent on overhead costs such as electricity, water and rent.
Process of Hiring Remote Employees
The hiring process for remote employees is largely similar to that of non-remote employees.
Organisations might have their own preferred hiring processes, thus the process of candidate screening, conducting interviews and so on remains at the discretion of each organisation.
However, it may be advisable to conduct background checks on remote employees, due to the lower levels of physical supervision over them. It may be wise for organisations to ask questions that provide insight into the candidate’s work ethic and potential workspaces.
Remote employees need employment contracts too. What is an employment contract and what should it include?
An employment contract, also known as contract of service, defines the employer-employee relationship.
According to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), an employment contract governed by Singapore law must include certain Key Employment Terms (KETs). These include the employee’s job title, main duties and responsibilities, basic salary, daily working hours, leaves and bonuses.
To minimise disputes on the agreed terms and conditions, MOM recommends that the contract be in writing.
What should be the governing laws of the employment contract?
The governing laws of a contract state which country’s laws are to apply to it. Understanding the governing law of a contract is important because the laws of different countries may lead to different legal outcomes with respect to the same contractual terms.
A contract to be performed in Singapore should ideally designate Singapore law as its governing law, with the Singapore courts as the court of choice.
Where the employee is working outside of Singapore, the governing law of the contract would depend on a mutual agreement between the employer and the employee as to which country’s laws should govern the contract. This could be the Employment Act (if Singapore law is adopted) or the overseas country’s employment regulation.
In the event of a dispute as to what the governing law of the contract is, it will be for both parties to present their case on which country’s laws should apply to the contract and why.
However, employers of overseas employees might want to keep in mind that even if Singapore law is to govern the employment contract, the terms of the contract should not infringe the local laws of the country that the employee is working in.
For example, employees in Singapore are generally not allowed to work for more than 12 hours a day. However, employees in Brunei are not allowed to work for more than 8 hours a day. Therefore if you are hiring an employee in Brunei to work for your Singapore company, you may not require the employee to work for more than 8 hours a day. This is even though Singapore law allows employees to work for up to 12 hours a day.
Do foreign remote employees need to apply for a work pass?
Remote employees do not need to apply for a work pass to work for Singapore companies if they are not physically based in Singapore.
However, if the foreign employees will be stationed in Singapore, then they will need to have a valid work pass.
Tripartite Standard on Flexible Work Arrangements (FWAs)
In recognition of the benefits that FWAs such as remote working bring to both employees and employers, and their role in creating a supportive and conducive work environment, the Tripartite Standard on Flexible Work Arrangements was launched in 2017.
This Tripartite Standard on FWAs will ensure that employees are better able to benefit from FWAs, while addressing their concerns. For example, the Tripartite Standard requires employers to inform employees on the availability of FWAs, the company’s FWA policy and how they can apply for them.
Adoption of this Tripartite Standard is optional, but doing so may increase the attractiveness of the employer to job applicants. Employers who wish to adopt the Tripartite Standard on Flexible Working Arrangements may refer to this page for more information.
Considerations for Organisations that Wish to Hire Remote Employees
Organisations may wish to think about whether they will be providing remote employees with necessary equipment such as laptops or mobile phones.
Investing in remote desktop sharing software might be useful in resolving technical difficulties faced by remote employees in a timely manner.
Clear communication and regular check-ins with your remote employees are also important in ensuring they are on track in terms of their work progress.
With the popularity of FWAs such as remote working, employers stand to benefit from hiring remote employees.
Given the importance of the employment contract in defining employer-employee relations, employers may consider engaging a lawyer to assist with the drafting of the employment contract and ensuring the inclusion of all necessary terms, in accordance with the intended governing law of the contract.
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