News & Updates

Tripartite Committee Releases Interim Report on Recommendations for Workplace Fairness Legislation

13 February 2023

The Tripartite Committee on Workplace Fairness, convened in July 2021 to review the workplace fairness framework in Singapore, has released an interim report on their recommendations (refer to Annex A) for Workplace Fairness Legislation (WFL). The WFL is a significant step forward to protect workers from discrimination.t More information on the Committee’s 20 recommendations can be found in its interim report at TriCom Interim Reprt_3 (snef.org.sg)

 

2            Over the past two decades, the tripartite partners have worked closely to uphold workplace fairness through education and enforcement of the Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices (TGFEP). This framework has worked well for Singapore and standards of workplace fairness have improved. While the incidence of discrimination in Singapore has improved, each case of workplace discrimination is one too many and we can strengthen our framework to stand against discrimination.  

 

3            The Committee’s recommendations are to retain the TGFEP to uphold overarching principles of fair and merit-based employment and stand against all forms of discrimination for all employers, while introducing legislation to prohibit the common forms of discrimination in Singapore and strengthen protection and redress for workers who experience discrimination.  The Committee has also emphasised the importance of preserving workplace harmony and the strengths of Tripartism in Singapore. Drawing from the successful experience in Singapore of resolving employment disputes through mediation, WFL will provide for mediation as the main avenue to address discrimination complaints, with recourse to the Employment Claims Tribunals if mediation fails. A broader range of sanctions and penalties in legislation will also empower Ministry of Manpower to take appropriate enforcement action for breaches of the law.

 

4        Stronger protection against the specified forms of workplace discrimination will support Singapore’s key social and economic objectives and promote greater participation in the workforce by mature workers, women, persons with disability and persons with mental health conditions.   Our framework for workplace fairness, comprising both WFL and TGFEP,  will send a strong signal that there is no place for workplace discrimination in Singapore .

 

5         Minister for Manpower, Dr Tan See Leng said “Rooting out discrimination is a whole-of-society effort. It requires knowledge, understanding, and ownership by employers, and the support of employees. The Workplace Fairness Legislation, together with the Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices, and a mediation-centred approach, will significantly strengthen our stand against discrimination and support progressive and harmonious workplaces.”

 

6        NTUC Secretary-General Ng Chee Meng said “Legislation can act as a deterrent to unfair practices by incalcitrant employers. However, it is more important that we ensure level-playing field and provide fair opportunities for our workers, especially our PMEs. NTUC will continue to work with our tripartite partners to build more inclusive workplaces, and improve our HR standards to enhance workplace fairness for our local PMEs. There will be continued efforts to ensure the local workplace can transform and remain employable.”

 

7        President, Singapore National Employers Federation, Dr Robert Yap said, “Our vision is “Responsible Employers. Sustainable Business”. SNEF strongly believe that the two go hand-in-hand. Responsible employment practices will help build harmonious workplaces, foster good relations between employers and employees, as well as unity amongst employees, which in turn support strong business outcomes, and enable businesses to be sustainable.’’

 

8            Since the Committee was formed, it has consulted a wide range of stakeholders, including workers, employers,  human resource practitioners, and non-governmental organisations. Following the release of the interim report, there will be a one-month public consultation period, and feedback can be directed to https://go.gov.sg/tcwfinterimfeedback.The Committee will continue to engage stakeholders in the coming weeks as it refines its recommendations. The Committee’s final report is expected to be ready later this year.

 

Annex A: Summary of Recommendations

Annex B: Composition of Tripartite Committee on Workplace Fairness

Annex A

Summary of Recommendations by the

Tripartite Committee on Workplace Fairness

Strengthen protections against workplace discrimination

  1. Prohibit workplace discrimination in respect of the following characteristics: (i) age, (ii) nationality, (iii) sex, marital status, pregnancy status, caregiving responsibilities, (iv) race, religion, language, (v) disability and mental health conditions.
  1. Retain and enhance the TGFEP to work in concert with legislation. The TGFEP will uphold overarching principles of fair and merit-based employment and provide protection against all forms of workplace discrimination.
  1. Cover all stages of employment i.e. the pre-employment (recruitment), in-employment (e.g. promotion, performance appraisal, training selection) and end-employment (e.g. dismissal) (“employment decisions’’).
  1. Prohibit the use of words or phrases in job advertisements that indicate a preference based on any protected characteristic .
  1. Legislate the job advertisement requirement for submission of Employment Pass and S Pass applications under the existing Fair Consideration Framework
  1. Prohibit retaliation against those who report cases of workplace discrimination or harassment.
  1. Update the TGFEP to provide protection against discrimination for workers engaged in work through service buyers (e.g. property management companies) and intermediaries (e.g. platform companies providing matching services).

 Provisions to support business/organisational needs and national objectives

  1. Allow employers to consider a protected characteristic in employment decisions if it is a genuine and reasonable job requirement.
  2. Exempt small firms with fewer than 25 employees from the legislation for a start, with a view to tighten this exemption in five years.
  3. Allow religious organisations to make employment decisions based on religion and religious requirements (i.e. conformity with religious beliefs and practices)
  4. Allow employers to favour persons with disability and seniors (55 years and above) over other groups in hiring decisions, even if another candidate may be equally or more qualified.

Processes for resolving grievances and disputes while preserving workplace harmony

  1. Require employers to put in place grievance handling processes. Employers should also protect the confidentiality of the identity of persons who report workplace discrimination and harassment, where possible.
  2. Require compulsory mediation for workplace discrimination claims at the Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management (TADM) first, with adjudication at the Employment Claims Tribunal (ECT) as a last resort.
  3. Ensure that the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP) continue to provide advice and assistance to workers who experience discrimination and advise employers on improving employment practices.
  4. Ensure that unions continue to play a constructive role in dispute resolution for workplace fairness. Allow unions to support their members in the claims process similar to other employment claims today

Ensuring fair outcomes through redress for victims of workplace discrimination and more appropriate penalties for breaches

  1. Encourage parties to explore non-monetary remedies, such as reinstatement of an employment offer or providing an apology letter, where practicable.
  2. Allow monetary compensation of up to $5,000 for pre-employment claims; and, up to $20,000 for non-union members and $30,000 for union-assisted claims, for in-employment and end-employment claims as with other employment claims today.
  3. Empower the ECT to strike out frivolous or vexatious claims, or award costs against such claimants.
  1. Allow the State to concurrently conduct investigations on claims that involve suspected serious breaches of the workplace fairness legislation, with a view to taking enforcement action.
  1. Provide a range of penalties including corrective work orders, financial penalties, and work pass curtailment that can be imposed against firms and/or culpable persons, depending on the severity of breach.

ANNEX B

S/N

Co-Chairs

1.     

Dr Tan See Leng

Minister for Manpower & Second Minister for Trade and Industry

2.     

Mr Ng Chee Meng

Secretary-General, National Trades Union Congress (NTUC)

3.     

Dr Robert Yap

President, Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF)

 

Members

4.     

Mr Edwin Tong

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth & Second Minister for Law

5.     

Dr Koh Poh Koon

Senior Minister of State for Manpower and Health

6.     

Mr Zaqy Mohamad

Senior Minister of State for Manpower and Defence

7.     

Ms Gan Siow Huang

Minister of State for Manpower and Education

8.     

Ms Cham Hui Fong

Deputy Secretary-General, NTUC

9.     

Mr Patrick Tay

Assistant Secretary-General, NTUC

10.  

Mr Arasu Duraisamy

Secretary for Financial Affairs, NTUC

11.  

Mr Edwin Ng

Honorary Secretary, SNEF

12.  

Ms Kohe Hasan

Council Member, SNEF

13.  

Ms Chew Lee Ching

Vice-President, Association of Small & Medium Enterprises

14.  

Mr Chia Der Jiun

Permanent Secretary (Development), Ministry of Manpower

15.  

Mr Aubeck Kam
(Until 1 April 2022)

Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Manpower

16.  

Mr Gabriel Lim       

Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Trade and Industry

17.  

Mr Ravi Menon       

Managing Director, Monetary Authority of Singapore

18.  

Mr Janadas Devan 

Chief of Government Communications

19.  

Ms Jeanne Lee

Chief Legislative Counsel, Attorney-General’s Chambers

20.  

Ms Low Peck Kem

President, Singapore Human Resources Institute

21.  

Ms Aileen Tan        

Board Member, Institute for Human Resource Professionals