parliament sitting on workplace discrimination

The highest number of workplace discrimination complaints revolved around an employee's nationality (233); followed by age (69), gender (49), as well as race and language (39).

Between 2014 and the first half of 2021, Singapore's Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP) received an average of 379 workplace discrimination complaints each year, according to Minister for Manpower Dr Tan See Leng's written parliamentary response on Tuesday (14 September 2021).

Minister Tan was responding to NTUC's Assistant Secretary General (ASG) and MP Patrick Tay's request for the annual breakdown of discrimination complaints for the different categories of discrimination, from 2014 to 2021.

The breakdown of 379 workplace discrimination complaints is as follows:

  • Nationality (233)
  • Age (69)
  • Gender (49)
  • Race/language (39)
  • Religion (7)
  • Marital status and family responsibilities (13)
  • Disability (2)
  • Others (i.e medical condition, bankruptcy) (33)

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) noted that the number of complaints under each type of discrimination will not add up to the total number of complaints received as one complaint may involve multiple types of discrimination.

"For example, a complaint involving discrimination due to age and religion will be tracked as two complaints in the breakdown by types of discrimination," MOM explained.

In a separate question, MP Tay asked Minister Tan for the annual number of complaints of discrimination which MOM or TAFEP had received; had investigated; had mediated; had resolved, and had prosecuted, in the same time period.

In response, Minister Tan revealed that in that period, TAFEP had received an average of 379 workplace discrimination complaints each year, and all complaints were investigated by TAFEP.

"About two-thirds of reported cases were not substantiated. The majority were misunderstandings which were clarified and where both parties did not pursue the matter further," he added.

That said, around one-third of the employers found to have discriminatory practices were referred to MOM. Out of these complaints, an average of 41 employers were found to be in breach of the Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices (TGFEP), and had their work pass privileges suspended each year.

With regard to the annual average number of workplace discrimination complaints handled by TAFEP and MOM, it is as follows:

  • Complaints received by TAFEP (379)
  • Complaints that were referred to MOM for investigation (121)
  • Employers found to be in breach of TGFEP and had their work pass privileges curtailed (based on complaints surfaced to MOM) (41)

On the topic of discrimination, in Parliament yesterday, MP Tay spoke on Finance Minister's Lawrence Wong's motion to secure Singaporeans' jobs and livelihood, noting: "A small proportion of egregious companies that exploit the system is why some workers are experiencing discrimination, not foreign competition."

He added that PMEs he has met with do understand the need for a foreign workforce to complement the local workforce. 

"They [the PMEs] do not advocate for the closing of borders to foreigners, but they want actions taken against employers who are recalcitrant in their hiring policies to protect our locals from discrimination."

Thus, he stressed that more needs to be done to weed out egregious companies despite the Government's measures and policies over the years to minimise unfair hiring and workplace practices, said Minister Tay.

Some of these measures and policies include the Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices (TGFEP), the Fair Consideration Framework (FCF), Triple Weak Scrutiny, and tightened requirements for S pass and Employment Passes.

"We need to look at ways to ensure that local PMEs receive fair opportunities and treatment while maintaining competitiveness in the economy."

On NTUC's part, he shared that the Union will continue to champion workers’ interests to ensure fairness and zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind at the workplace. 

Read highlights of MP Tay's speech here.

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Image [screenshot at 8:02] / Singapore's Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI)

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