Written Answer by Mrs Josephine Teo Minister for Manpower to Parliamentary Question on studies on workplace bullying in Singapore
NOTICE PAPER NO. 1848 OF 2019 FOR SITTING ON 7 OCTOBER
QUESTION NO. 3200 FOR ORAL ANSWER
MP: Mr Pritam Singh
To ask the Minister for Manpower whether local or independent studies or surveys have been carried out on workplace bullying in Singapore in light of the findings of the inaugural Kantar Inclusion Index.
- Based on a Ministry of Manpower (MOM) survey conducted in 2018, 2.4% of Singapore’s resident labour force reported having personally experienced bullying or harassment in their workplace. The MOM survey’s definition of bullying and harassment was specific. It asked respondents to recall actual incidents where they were subjected to verbal abuse, threats or assault during the course of their work.
- MOM’s survey adopts a similar methodology used in the European Working Conditions Survey, where the corresponding figure for Italy is 3.0% and Spain is 3.2%, for instance. The average among European countries is 5.7%. In Canada, the average incidence of employees experiencing threats, violence and harassment is similarly low.
- Kantar’s study was based only on results from 14 countries, but claimed that 19% of employees from around the world have been “bullied, undermined, or harassed”, compared to 20% in Canada, and 24% in Singapore. It also claimed that Italy, the Netherlands, and Spain fared better but did not offer statistics for comparison.
- Notably, the Kantar press release conflated bullying, harassment, and being “undermined”. This possibly explains the large gap between their reported figures and the official statistics that were just cited. Various media outlets that reported off the Kantar press release thus presented the same skewed picture. We would caution readers to exercise judgement when reading such reports or indices.
- We take a serious stance towards workplace bullying or harassment, against which we have stringent criminal laws. For example, the sending of unwarranted lewd messages to co-workers with intent to cause harassment, alarm or distress, would be a criminal offence under the Protection from Harassment Act. The Police can investigate such cases. If the workplace bullying amounts to criminal intimidation or involves physical violence, the Police can also take action under the Penal Code.
- At MOM's Committee of Supply debate this year, we announced that the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP) would be a help and resource centre for workplace harassment for both employees and employers. Since our announcement earlier this year, TAFEP has received 27 cases relating to workplace harassment. For these cases, employers have taken the necessary corrective measures upon advice from TAFEP. TAFEP has also provided support to complainants and advised on their options, such as making a police report or seeking civil remedies.
- We urge individuals who face harassment at the workplace to call TAFEP at 6838 0969 or write to TAFEP for advice and assistance.