Oral Answer by Mr Zaqy Mohamad Minister of State for Manpower to Parliamentary Question on Mental Health at Work
NOTICE PAPER NO. 1611 OF 2019 FOR THE SITTING ON 8 MAY 2019
QUESTION NO. 2715 FOR ORAL ANSWER
MP: Ms Anthea Ong
To ask the Minister for Manpower (a) whether persons with mental health conditions will be included in the Special Employment Credit and Open Door programmes and, if so, when; (b) given that the Workplace Safety and Health Institute's Research Agenda for Singapore 2018-2020 listed "work stress" as one of its priorities under long-term challenges alongside "ageing workforce and technology", whether the Ministry is considering legislative interventions for risk assessments and counter-measures in the area of physical and mental health.
The Special Employment Credit (SEC) and Open Door Programme (ODP) cover persons with special needs who face significant disadvantages in employment. Under the Enabling Masterplan, this refers to those with physical, sensory, intellectual and developmental impairments. These are unlike mental health conditions which can improve or be managed with appropriate interventions.
We recognise that some jobseekers with mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety disorders may also require employment assistance. They can approach the Job Club under the Institute of Mental Health for job preparation and matching services, while managing their conditions. They can also tap on the range of programmes and services under the Adapt and Grow Initiative.
To manage mental health issues at work, our efforts have been to educate companies to be more aware of how work stress may lead to mental health issues, and of progressive practices they can adopt to help employees manage stress, whether from work or non-work factors.
For instance, the Health Promotion Board (HPB) provides on-site Management Training workshops to equip managers and HR professionals with skills to recognise employees with common mental health issues, including stress, and to support employees in managing them. HPB has also made available workplace mental health programmes that give practical tips to workers on effective stress management.
The Workplace Safety and Health Institute’s research on work stress aims to help MOM and companies understand employees’ perceptions of stress, what it could be linked to, and how it impacts their well-being. The research will help in educating and socialising companies to be more aware of the effects of stress.
While legislation is necessary to ensure employment protection, the tripartite partners prefer a promotional approach to bring about more progressive workplaces. This recognises the diverse workforce and employers, where rigid prescriptions are unlikely to be effective or may deter employers from hiring. To help workers and employers deal with the challenges of mental health at the workplace, we will continue to raise awareness, step up education and share best practices.