If these employees have to be re-deployed, placed on no-pay leave, or terminated as a last resort, "it would not be considered workplace discrimination or wrongful dismissal for employers to exercise these options in accordance with the employment contract," MOM stated.
On Wednesday (12 January), Member of Parliament (MP) Zhulkarnain Abdul Rahim raised a question to Singapore's Ministry of Manpower, on the protection and recourse made available to employees who experience workplace discrimination or wrongful termination because they have not undergone vaccination for medical reasons or otherwise.
In a written response, the Ministry of Manpower said currently, about 48,000 employees in Singapore have not taken any vaccine dose, "the large majority of whom are medically eligible."
The current Workforce Vaccination Measures, where only vaccinated workers can return to the workplace, will help to protect unvaccinated individuals and make workplaces safer, thus minimising disruptions to businesses, it added.
MOM highlighted: "The tripartite partners urge those who are not vaccinated but eligible to do so to get themselves inoculated as soon as possible. Tripartite partners agree that for unvaccinated employees who cannot return to the workplace, employers have the option of redeploying them to jobs that can be performed from home; placing them on no-pay leave, or terminating their contracts as the last resort.
"It would not be considered workplace discrimination or wrongful dismissal for employers to exercise these options in accordance with the employment contract."
However, MOM noted, employees who are certified to be medically ineligible for vaccination will still be allowed to enter workplaces.
"If such employees are discriminated against or dismissed on the basis of their vaccination status, they should approach MOM for further assistance."
On the topic of discrimination, in a separate written response, Minister for Manpower Dr Tan See Leng touched on the number of discrimination-related dismissal claims lodged since the adjudication of wrongful dismissal claims was shifted from MOM to the Employment Claims Tribunals (ECT) on 1 April 2019.
Between then and 31 December 2021, he shared that about 120 discrimination-related dismissal claims were lodged at the Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management (TADM), with a "vast majority" being resolved through mediation at TADM or at ECT’s case management conference.
The minister was responding to a Parliamentary question by MP Leon Perera, who asked for the annual number of discrimination-related claims that have been made before the ECT in the last five years; the breakdown of these claims by discrimination category, and the average and range of compensation awarded by the ECT in wrongful dismissal cases involving discrimination.
As of 31 December 2021, he added, only 12 claims proceeded for adjudication at the ECT, of which eight were dismissed, one withdrawn, one pending, and an amicable settlement was reached in the remaining two cases. There was no adjudicated order for compensation granted in favour of the employee for wrongful dismissal due to discrimination.
Dr Tan pointed out: "Neither TADM nor the ECT classifies wrongful dismissal claims by the types of discrimination. Therefore, we are unable to provide the breakdown requested."
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