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Action taken in cases of workplace discrimination

  • The Straits Times (26 February 2018): Weed out hidden ageist bias in the workplace 

Action taken in cases of workplace discrimination
- The Straits Times, 12 March 2018

  1. We thank Prof Sattar Bawany (“Weed out hidden ageist bias in the workplace”; 26 Feb) for raising important issues about the employment of older workers.
  2. TAFEP’s work involves both public education and enforcement. It actively addresses the root cause of discrimination, by correcting stereotypes, educating employers and uplifting employment practices through training and working directly with employers to put in place fair and inclusive workplace practices.
  3. Secondly, TAFEP examines complaints of workplace discrimination. Where breaches of the Guidelines are found, TAFEP reports these employers to MOM. MOM in turn imposes sanctions, such as stern warnings and curtailment of work pass privileges. Over the past three years, it has imposed sanctions on 258 employers.
  4. Through the collective efforts of TAFEP and the tripartite partners, the employment outcomes for older workers continue to improve. The employment rate for workers aged 55 to 64 increased from 64% in 2012 to 67% in 2017. This is higher than OECD countries such as Australia, Korea, the United States, and the United Kingdom.
  5. In addition, the prevalence of age-related discrimination remains low. The yearly number of age-related discrimination complaints reported to TAFEP and MOM in the past three years, averaged 70, constituting 13% of the total complaints. The number also declined by more than half in the past two years, from 101 in 2016 to 42 in 2017.
  6. TAFEP will continue to work closely with MOM, employers and HR practitioners to build inclusive workplaces in Singapore. We urge workers who face discrimination in the workplace to report the matter to TAFEP ( promptly so that action on errant employers can be taken early.

Mrs Roslyn Ten
General Manager
Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices

Ms Christine Loh
Director, Employment Standards Enforcement
Labour Relations & Workplaces Division
Ministry of Manpower  

Weed out hidden ageist bias in the workplace
- The Straits Times, 26 February 2018

  1. Of all the issues raised by Dr Kanwaljit Soin in her commentary, the subject of ageism and discrimination at the workplace remains of key importance today (Towards a society of people who lead longer, productive lives; Feb 22).
  2. In my experience over the past 10 years as a human resource consultant to organisations, as well as a career and executive coach to professionals, managers, executives and technicians impacted by restructuring, I have found that there is clearly a prevalence of age discrimination in the workplace.
  3. This is evident in the form of human resource policies and processes, such as recruitment and compensation that reveal a bias against older employees, a situation which is potentially limiting business performance and preventing older employees from contributing fully.
  4. It appears that ageism may be responsible for the rise in the number of redundancies and the difficulties faced by older Singaporeans trying to re-enter the workforce.
  5. Many perfectly healthy older workers feel they have been forced by circumstances into leaving the labour force.
  6. The prevailing idea that older employees must retire at an arbitrary age in order to provide jobs for younger people must also be re-examined.
  7. If people are able to work longer, society should not discourage them from doing so. The real issue is that older Singaporeans have to (and not necessarily want to) work until they are 67 or 70, or beyond.
  8. The reality is that with the costs of living climbing (especially healthcare costs), fewer of us can afford to stop working. Working beyond the traditional retirement age is a necessity and no longer a choice.
  9. Despite living in a place with one of the highest per capita incomes worldwide, many Singaporeans face the very real prospect of their savings running dry almost halfway through retirement because of the high cost of living and greater life expectancy.
  10. Age-discrimination legislation makes it unlawful to treat people unfairly purely and arbitrarily because of their age. Refusal to hire and compulsory retirement must be based on reasons of legitimate, proportionate and, so, legal organizational policy and/or the candidate's or employee's competence or capability.
  11. However, the law does not make it impossible to treat people differently because of age-related issues at work.
  12. Employers should have clear transparent policies stating how unlawful discrimination is avoided in the main areas of people management and development, notably recruitment, training, promotions, discipline and retirement.
  13. Such practices could enhance the organisation's employer branding and also its employee value proposition, which would position it well in terms of recruiting future employees.
  14. Many employers regard the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices as an organization that simply issues "guidelines" which they do not need to comply with, as it is not a statutory requirement for businesses.
  15. The current reality is that age-discriminatory practices can be hard to detect or deal with, as many ageist attitudes have become institutionalized to the extent that they are deemed acceptable.
  16. Hence, I am of the opinion that age-discrimination laws are necessary for Singapore.