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Oral Answer by Mr Teo Ser Luck, Minister of State for Manpower, to Parliamentary Question on Workplace Discrimination

Notice Paper No. 205 of 2016 for 11 July 2016

Question No. 344 for Oral Answer

MP: Dr Intan Azura Mokhtar

To ask the Minister for Manpower (a) what is the current percentage of employers that have an inclusive or multiracial workforce; (b) what percentage of these employers have employment policies that proactively seek to have an inclusive, diverse or multiracial employee base; and (c) whether the Ministry requires employers to make a serious attempt to create an inclusive work environment, starting with their employment policy.


Notice Paper No. 222 of 2016 for 11 July 2016

Question No. 346 for Oral Answer

MP: Zainal Sapari

To ask the Minister for Manpower (a) between 2011 to 2015, what is the number of complaints that the Tripartite Alliance for Fair Employment Practices (TAFEP) have received on alleged discriminatory practices in the workplace; (b) what is the trend of alleged discriminatory practices by individuals, companies or employers which are based on race and religion; (c) what are the actions taken by TAFEP or the Ministry against companies where the discriminatory practices have been proven to have taken place; and (d) whether TAFEP is vested with sufficient authority to mediate or resolve discriminatory practices that are reported.

Notice Paper No. 218 of 2016 for 11 July 2016

Question No. 368 for Oral Answer

MP: Zaqy Mohamad

To ask the Minister for Manpower (a) what measures does the Ministry have to respond to and investigate complaints of racial or religious discrimination at the workplace and in employers’ hiring practices; (b) what powers does the Ministry have in enforcing such practices and under what circumstances will the Ministry enforce its powers; (c) over the past five years, what are the trends of complaints from workers over discrimination and hiring practices; (d) how can the Ministry get more employers to embrace and adopt the values of diversity and inclusiveness in their employment policies; and (e) what is the level of awareness among workers of TAFEP’s role in handling discrimination at the workplace and how can this awareness be improved.

Answer

  1. MOM takes a serious view of any form of workplace discrimination. We expect all employers to adopt the principles of fair and merit-based employment, in line with the Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices. In a survey conducted by MOM in 2014, two in three firms reported that they implemented fair employment practices. The majority of those who did not were planning to do so. 
  2. To tackle complaints about workplace discrimination, MOM works with our tripartite partners through the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices, or TAFEP. TAFEP, as the advocate and champion for fair employment practices, plays an active role in looking into such complaints and refers cases to MOM for investigation where warranted. 
  3. Between 2011 and 2015, MOM and TAFEP received on average about 400 complaints of alleged discriminatory workplace practices each year. Less than 10%, or about 30, of these relate to race or religion. Most of them were about unfair hiring practices, including posting discriminatory job advertisements and asking inappropriate questions during job interviews. The remaining concerned in-employment issues, such as poor grievance handling and lack of sensitivity in communicating company policies and practices. 
  4. Prior to 2014, TAFEP took an advisory approach in counselling employers who were involved in such complaints. They have all heeded TAFEP’s advice. Even so, we have taken stronger actions to deter workplace discrimination. Since then, 10 employers have received warnings for race- or religion-related discrimination; and another 12 employers have had their work pass privileges curtailed. 
  5. While this twin approach of advisory and deterrence has been reasonably effective, we can certainly do more. MOM and our tripartite partners recognise that the key to eliminating discrimination is to spread this fair and inclusive message to all workplaces. TAFEP will step up its public education campaign to make people more conscious and sensitive in embracing diversity in a multiracial workforce. TAFEP will also ramp up training for HR practitioners to ensure recruitment and selection are based on the principles of fair and merit-based hiring, and publicise best practices in this area. 
  6. Madam Speaker, Singapore is a multiracial and meritocratic society. We should not condone discrimination of any form, including race and religion, in the workplace. We can succeed in eliminating workplace discrimination when everybody plays his part.