25 August 2023

On 4 August 2023, the Ministry for Manpower (“MOM”) announced that the Singapore Government has accepted the final set of recommendations by the Tripartite Committee on Workplace Fairness (“Tripartite Committee”) on Workplace Fairness Legislation (“WFL”). The Government will work closely with tripartite partners to implement the recommendations in 2024. Further information on the recommendations can be found in the Tripartite Committee on Workplace Fairness Final Report.

MOM explains that the WFL will benefit employees, employers and the society as follows:

  • WFL will strengthen protections against discrimination and provide assurance to workers that they can come forward to report without fear of retaliation. WFL will also ensure that employees and jobseekers have fair access to job opportunities.
  • Fair employers will benefit from a more productive and engaged workforce,
    a more harmonious workplace, and be better able to attract and retain talent, contributing to stronger business outcomes.
  • WFL will shape positive workplace norms and strengthen social cohesion by addressing unfair treatment at workplaces. This is especially important in a multi-racial, multi-religious society, and a diverse workforce.

A summary of the 22 recommendations is set out below.

Strengthen protection against workplace discrimination

  1. Define discrimination as making an adverse employment decision because of any protected characteristic.
  2. Prohibit workplace discrimination in respect of the following characteristics: (i) age, (ii) nationality, (iii) gender, marital status, pregnancy status, caregiving responsibilities, (iv) race, religion, language, and (v) disability and mental health conditions (“protected characteristics”).
  3. Retain and enhance the Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices (“TGFEP”) to work in concert with legislation. The TGFEP will continue to uphold overarching principles of fair and merit-based employment and provide protection against all forms of workplace discrimination.
  4. Cover all stages of employment, i.e. the pre-employment (recruitment),
    in-employment (e.g. promotion, performance appraisal, training selection), and end-employment (e.g. dismissal) stages (“employment decisions”).
  5. Prohibit the use of words or phrases in job advertisements that indicate a preference for a protected characteristic.
  6. Legislate the job advertisement requirement for submission of Employment Pass and S Pass applications under the existing Fair Consideration Framework.
  7. Prohibit retaliation against those who report cases of workplace discrimination or harassment.
  8. Update the TGFEP to clarify that corporate service buyers (e.g. property management companies) and intermediaries (e.g. platform operators providing matching services) should not discriminate based on characteristics that are not related to the job.

Provisions to support business/organisational needs and national objectives

  1. Allow employers to consider a protected characteristic in employment decisions if it is a genuine and reasonable job requirement.
  2. Exempt small firms (less than 25 employees) from the legislation for a start, to be reviewed in five years.
  3. Allow religious organisations to make employment decisions based on religion and appropriate religious requirements (i.e. conformity with religious beliefs and practices).
  4. Support employers in hiring persons with disabilities and seniors (55 years’ old and above).
  5. Issue tripartite advisory on providing reasonable accommodation to persons with disabilities.

Processes for resolving grievances and disputes while preserving workplace harmony

  1. Require employers to put in place grievance handling processes. Employers should also protect the confidentiality of the identity of persons who report workplace discrimination and harassment, where possible.
  2. The Tripartite Alliance for Fair & Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP) continues to serve as the first port of call outside the firm for workers who experience discrimination.
  3. Require compulsory mediation for workplace discrimination claims at the Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management (“TADM”) first, with adjudication at the Employment Claims Tribunals (“ECT”) as a last resort.
  4. Unions to continue to play a constructive role in dispute resolution for workplace fairness. Allow unions to support their members in the claims process similar to other employment claims today.

Ensuring fair outcomes through redress for victims of workplace discrimination, and appropriate penalties for breaches

  1. At TADM mediation, the focus should be on educating employers on correct practices and mending the employment relationship where practicable, and not primarily monetary compensation.
  2. Provide for monetary compensation of up to S$5,000 for pre-employment claims; and, up to S$20,000 for non-union members and S$30,000 for union-assisted claims, for in-employment and end-employment claims, as with other employment claims today.
  3. Empower the ECT to strike out frivolous or vexatious claims, and/or award costs against such claimants.
  4. Where the claim involves a suspected serious breach of the workplace fairness legislation, allow the State to concurrently conduct investigations with a view to taking enforcement action.
  5. Provide a range of penalties including corrective orders, work pass curtailment, and financial penalties that can be imposed against firms and/or culpable persons, depending on the severity of breach.

Reference materials

The following materials are available on the MOM website www.mom.gov.sg: