Mental Health Policies for Singapore Workplaces (Tripartite Advisory)

Last updated on December 21, 2020

employee stressed at workplace

With work-from-home arrangements being more prevalent due to Covid-19, extreme levels of work stress stemming from changes to working conditions, work schedules and pace of work may contribute to mental health issues. As a result, mental health policies have become all the more necessary.

In view of the growing need to tackle mental health needs in Singapore, a Tripartite Advisory on Mental Well-Being at Workplaces (tripartite advisory) was released to provide employers with some ways to safeguard the mental health of their employees.

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What is the Tripartite Advisory on Mental Well-Being at Workplaces?

The Tripartite Advisory on Mental Well-Being at Workplaces was jointly issued by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) and the National Employers Federation (SNEF).

It provides a set of recommendations and measures employers are advised to adopt to support their employees’ mental well-being. Apart from the recommendations, the tripartite advisory also contains resources for employers to utilise.

Is It Compulsory for Employers to Implement the Recommendations?

The recommendations are intended to outline certain practices and measures employers can adopt to support their employees’ mental well-being and are not meant to be legally binding on employers.

While it is therefore not compulsory for employers to implement the recommendations, they are strongly encouraged to do so for the purpose of promoting employee mental well-being at the workplace.

Recommendations in the Tripartite Advisory on Mental Well-Being at Workplaces

The tripartite advisory comprehensively sets out the recommendations and practices to be applied on three levels:

Individual employees

Appointing mental wellness champions

To support individual employees, employers may consider appointing mental wellness champions to raise employees’ awareness on mental health by organising workshops or talks.

Through these programmes, employees will be exposed to mental well-being related issues, such as mental health conditions and coping methods.

Provide access to counselling services

Employers may also consider providing employees access to counselling services, so that they are able to speak to a professional on their work and non-work related issues.

The tripartite advisory contains a list of service providers employers may tap on to provide such access to their employees, such as the Singapore Anglican Community Services Integrated Employment Services, Singapore Counselling Centre and Mind What Matters.

Extend the scope of employee benefits 

Employers are also encouraged to extend the scope of existing flexible employee benefits to include mental health consultations and treatments, as well as mental well-being programmes.

Team/department level

Train key personnel to detect mental distress and direct employees to seek help

Key personnel members of companies, such as managers, supervisors or union leaders, could be trained to detect signs of mental distress, and intervene accordingly to refer employees to seek professional help.

Employers may consider utilising the resources listed in the tripartite advisory (under “Annex A”) to equip these members with the relevant skills.

For instance, employers and key personnel members of the company may wish to participate in Health Promotion Board’s Wellbeing@Work workshop that covers topics such as recognising mental health issues, or engage mental health training services from the Singapore Anglican Community Services that equips employers and supervisors with knowledge and skills on caring for the mental well-being of their employees.

Strengthen the social support system at the workplace

Having a strong social support system will go hand-in-hand with the safeguarding of mental well-being.

As a result, employers are encouraged to organise bonding activities, and/or put in place internal systems to form strong support networks within the team/ departments.

Promote a psychologically safe and trusting work environment

A negative work environment may not only result in unproductivity, but also mental health issues. Thus, employers should work towards establishing an open culture where employees can share their mental health struggles and challenges without being judged.

Further, employers can schedule team talks and one-to-one conversations with their employees on their mental health. This way, employees will feel safe in their work environment.

Organisational level

Review employees’ mental state regularly 

As part of risk assessment for workplace health, employers could conduct surveys or make use of a confidential online assessment tool to monitor the mental well-being of their employees.

The findings and data gathered from the surveys may help to chart the progress of the company in terms of improving the employees’ mental well-being.

Review Human Resource policies 

Employers should also ensure that their workplace practices do not discriminate against the mental well-being of employees. In particular, job applicants should not be asked to declare their mental health condition, unless it is a job-related requirement.

Any appraisal system in the company should be fair and objective, and employees should be informed about the ways in which they can give feedback with full confidentiality.

Implementation of flexible work arrangements 

Offering flexible work arrangements to employees may also assist greatly in helping them to meet both their work and personal demands. This will allow them to attain work-life balance, which is crucial for promoting mental well-being. Maintaining work-life balance not only increases their overall mental well-being but also employee productivity and engagement.

The tripartite advisory recommends that employers consider implementing the following work arrangements:

  • Flexi-place, where employees are allowed to work offsite via telecommuting and working-from-home;
  • Flexi-time, where work hours are adjusted to meet the needs of employees, such as by implementing staggered working hours or compressed workweek(s) to reduce the total number of days employees need to report to work; and/or
  • Flexi-load, where the workload of employees is reduced, such as by allowing the employee to work part-time instead of full-time or offering job-sharing.

Establish a work-life harmony policy

Having in place a work-life harmony policy is crucial in promoting employees’ well-being in the long-run. This is because employers play an important role in helping employees obtain proper rest outside of work hours.

Specifically, the company should provide clarity on after-hours work communication, such as when employees are not expected to reply to work-related messages, or if they have to, how these employees will be given time-off for rest.

Establish return-to-work policies 

For employees who are recovering from a mental health condition, employers should support them in returning to the workplace. This may be done through flexible work arrangements to help them transit back to work, while ensuring that they have time to receive treatments.

If you find that work has taken a toll on your mental health, do not hesitate to reach out for help. There are numerous online and phone counselling services available, such as:

  • National CARE Hotline (1800-202-6868)
  • Silver Ribbon (6358-3714)
  • Singapore Association for Mental Health (1800-283-7019)

You may also find it helpful to refer to the list of resources and service providers in the tripartite advisory.

If you are facing difficulties due to mistreatment at work that is affecting your mental well-being, you may also wish to consider getting in touch with an employment disputes lawyer. He/she will be able to identify and advise you on possible actions to be taken against your employer, and/or legal remedies you may obtain as a result of the mistreatment.

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