Speech at Parliament Motion on Mental Health and Well-Being
Ms Gan Siow Huang, Minister of State for Manpower, Parliament
1. Mr Speaker Sir, I rise in support of the motion. Many adults spend substantial time at work. Sometimes work can be stressful and affect one’s mental well-being. It is thus important that we look at how workplaces can support mental well-being of employees, and what each of us can do to create kinder, inclusive workplaces.
Strengthening General Mental Well-being at Workplaces
2. I will first touch on the plans to support general mental well-being of employees.
Formation of the Well-being Champions Network
3. In November last year, the Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Council launched the Well-being Champions Network. This is a community of practice for Well-being Champions to exchange best practices, and access more resources and training.
4. Who are these Well-being Champions, you might ask? A Well-being Champion is typically a management-level employee or individual whom the company empowers to lead the well-being agenda, and implement mental well-being measures in the company.
5. One such Well-being Champion who has joined the Network is Mr Hon Lip Yung, General Manager of a local SME.
a. The Network allows Mr Hon to learn from Well-being Champions of other companies on how they implement mental well-being initiatives.
b. Mr Hon is now looking forward to attending training with other members in the Network, which is aligned to Tier 1 of the National Competency Training Framework. The training, worth $400 per pax, is complimentary for one champion per company.
6. The Network now has 275 members from 145 companies with close to 175,000 employees. We will work closely with the various government agencies, Tripartite Partners and Trade Associations to expand the network.
Enhancement of Training and Support for Peer Supporters
7. Peer support is another important part of strengthening workplace mental well-being support. The National Council of Social Service (NCSS) and Health Promotion Board (HPB) are working together to (a) enhance training for peer supporters, and (b) develop a framework to support them. The peer supporters would be equipped to provide emotional support and lend a listening ear to colleagues around them.
Framework to support employees’ mental well-being and HR
8. I agree with Mr Edward Chia’s suggestion that every company should have a framework to support their employees’ mental well-being.
a. Employers may refer to the Playbook on Workplace Mental Well-being for step-by-step guidance to implement mental well-being initiatives.
b. HR leaders play an important role in this ecosystem. I encourage more HR professionals to join the Well-being Champions Network.
i. The Institute of Human Resource Professionals (IHRP) has also established the Body of Competencies (BoC) for HR professionals which identifies the execution of employee benefits, including mental well-being initiatives, as an expected functional competency for HR professionals.
ii. MOM will continue to partner the IHRP to equip and support the HR industry on this front.
Our Total WSH Approach
9. I agree with Mr Mark Lee and other members on the importance of both physical and mental health. This is why MOM and the WSH Council take a Total WSH approach to workers’ well-being, focusing on both physical and mental health. On Mr Ong Hua Han’s interest in the support for SMEs, the Total WSH programme provides SMEs with free access to qualified consultants who can advise them on how to manage safety and health in an integrated way, and provide intervention programmes such as mental well-being workshops. We have streamlined the administrative overheads for SMEs to participate more easily and fully.
Development and Launch of iWorkHealth Lite
10. I agree with Mr Edward Chia that it’s important for a company to measure the state of mental well-being of its employees.
11. Companies can use MOM’s iWorkHealth assessment tool, which is a free online, company-administered tool to better understand their employees’ state of mental well-being, including the workplace stressors that employees are facing.
a. We have taken in companies’ feedback to leverage iWorkHealth as a pulse survey to monitor their employees’ state of mental well-being on a more frequent basis.
b. I am pleased to announce that we are launching iWorkHealth Lite.
c. The iWorkHealth Lite is a dipstick survey for companies to gauge their employees’ work stress and burnout, and it can be completed in 5 minutes.
d. Mr Edward Chia also suggested harmonising the iWorkHealth tool with the Human Capital Diagnostic Tool. We will consider this. We need to balance between harmonising tools for ease and gaining an overview of the organisation’s environment and workforce, while ensuring that the tools are kept in a functional and purposeful and at a reasonable length for employees.
Expanded Tripartite Advisory on Mental Health and Well-being
12. I echo Dr Wan Rizal’s on the need for one to set aside time to rest outside of working hours, and Associate Professor Razwana’s on the need to have reasonable working hours. Ms Carrie Tan and Mr Melvin Yong also suggested introducing the “Right to Disconnect”, also known as after-hours work communication policy. Guidance on how to implement such policy is in the Tripartite Advisory. We will continue to work with the Tripartite Partners, including NTUC, to raise awareness of the importance of setting after-hours work communication policy while managing both employees’ and business needs. At the same time, the Tripartite Partners are pushing for greater adoption of work-life harmony measures such as health and wellness programmes, and unrecorded time-off for personal and family matters.
13. I share Mr Melvin Yong, Mr Darryl David, Mr Vikram Nair and Mr Ong Hua Han’s calls in getting more companies to subscribe to Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP). Employers may refer to the refreshed EAP service providers list in the Tripartite Advisory, which includes EAP service providers offering subsidised rates, and details of their offerings such as indicative pricings and areas of specialisation.
14. Apart from EAP services, individuals experiencing mental distress or just need a listening ear, including employees and Self-Employed Persons, can tap on the new National Mental Health Hotline and Text Service from 2025. There are also free online resources such as Belle the helpbot and Mindline.sg. Ms Jean See would be happy to note that SEPs and freelancers can tap on such resources too.
15. I also note Ms Hazel Poa and Associate Professor Razwana’s suggestion to have 4-day work week. Companies that find 4-day work week feasible and workable for their business and employees are free to do so. However, as with any work arrangement, this may only work well for certain sectors and jobs. I encourage employers to proactively discuss with employees the types of flexible work arrangements that suit both their business context and their employees’ specific needs, including for givers who might have special needs as mentioned by Ms Yeo Wan Ling.
16. Supportive companies that demonstrate exemplary mental well-being practices can be recognised through the annual WSH (CARE) Award. CARE stands for Culture of Acceptance, Respect and Empathy.
Supporting young adults to adjust to their first careers
17. I acknowledge Ms Ng Ling Ling, Ms Mariam Jaafar and other MPs’ concern for the mental health of our young adults, especially those adjusting to their first careers.
a. The National Youth Council’s Mentoring SG Movement provides accessible mentoring programmes to support youths in managing life transitions. Young NTUC is one of our partners which has put in place several initiatives, such as career preparation workshops for youths.
Public Service Leading The Way
18. I would like to assure Ms Carrie Tan that the Public Service Division (PSD) is taking the lead to strengthen mental well-being support of our civil servants. This includes:
a. Providing a range of well-being programmes and resources to equip them with the skills and knowledge for self-care;
b. Joining the Well-being Champions Network;
c. Having a whole-of-government confidential counselling services hotline for public officers to speak to trained counsellors; and
d. Building a community of Wellness Ambassadors, who are trained peer supporters.
19. The Public Service will continue to strengthen support for our public officers’ well-being.
Supporting employment and employability of IMHCs
20. I will now cover how we are supporting the employment and employability of individuals with mental health conditions who are on recovery.
21. Mr Keith Chua has suggested stronger support for individuals with mental health conditions who are looking for a job.
Enhancing the inclusivity and accessibility of training for individuals with mental health conditions
22. To drive inclusivity in training, SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) is working with training providers to (a) raise awareness of mental health and well-being in adult learners, (b) develop customised training courses, and increase the accessibility of some mainstream courses to cater to trainees with mental health conditions.
a. In relation to Mr Edward Chia and Ms Carrie Tan’s suggestions to equip Singaporeans with skills in psychological first aid and mental health literacy through SkillsFuture, SSG currently provides funding for more than 100 courses in the area of mental health including psychological first aid and mental health literacy.
Outreach efforts to encourage more employers to hire individuals with mental health conditions in recovery
23. For those who require customised employment support, agencies such as the Institute of Mental Health (IMH), Singapore Anglican Community Services and Singapore Association for Mental Health provide services to place them with suitable employers, advise employers on job task adaptations, and train supervisors to better support these employees.
24. One such company is Konica Minolta, which has partnered IMH Job Club since 2016 to recruit individuals in recovery. They are paired with a peer buddy and the company works closely with IMH to effect workplace adjustments, such as moderating their workload and tasks to a more suitable pace. Through the joint support by IMH and the employer, these individuals gain and sustain meaningful employment.
25. We are looking to help employment support agencies expand their partnerships with trade associations and chambers, to encourage more companies to come onboard to hire and retain employees recovering from mental health conditions.
26. On Mr Keith Chua’s and Ms Hazel Poa’s suggestion to look at some form of wage subsidies for these individuals, I would like to say that mental health conditions vary in severity and fluctuate over time. It is difficult to calibrate salary support to cater to fluctuations in the condition of the individual.
a. Today, eligible individuals with mental health conditions are given training allowances as they work on equipping themselves with skills to return to employment.
Addressing stigma and discrimination, and creating inclusive workplaces for all
27. Finally, I would like to speak on the stigma and potential workplace discrimination associated with mental health.
28. I share Ms Ng Ling Ling and Mr Sharael Taha’s concerns that individuals with mental health conditions require stronger support. And as highlighted by Mr Ong Hua Han, persons with disabilities need even greater help as they could be more vulnerable to mental health illnesses.
29. To this end, NCSS, together with the Beyond the Label (BTL) Collective Workplace Workgroup members, is developing case studies and videos to increase awareness of best practices of inclusive employment and to guide employers on how to support employees when mental health issues arise. Employers may also refer to NCSS’ Mental Health Toolkit on adjustments they may make for their IMHCs, including having a phased return-to-work programme and providing a buddy or mentor. NCSS is also working with employment support agencies to develop a common framework to refer, assess and support individuals with varying readiness to return to work.
30. On the issue of workplace discrimination as raised by Dr Wan Rizal and other MPs, the upcoming Workplace Fairness Legislation sends a strong signal that there is no place for discrimination against employees and jobseekers with mental health conditions. Employees should be treated fairly and based on merit even if they have chosen to disclose their mental health conditions.
31. Mr Speaker Sir,the Government is committed to working with employers to strengthen support for employees’ mental well-being. To the employers, we encourage you to tap on resources that are available. To employees, let’s strive to show kindness, support and understanding to those around us. To those of you recovering from mental health conditions and other vulnerable groups seeking employment, you are not alone. We will support you in the pursuit of meaningful employment. Together, we can build a more inclusive society.