More Singapore employers investigated for possible discriminatory hiring practices

SINGAPORE – More employers are being investigated for possible discriminatory hiring practices, said a report on employment practices released on Thursday (Nov 19).

The Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (Tafep), the national watchdog on fair employment, investigated about 260 cases of such practices in the first half of this year, 60 per cent more than the 160 cases in the same period last year.

Some 90 employers eventually had their work pass privileges suspended due to discriminatory hiring practices as at August this year, up from 35 for the full year of 2019.

This means the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) barred them from hiring new foreigners or renewing the work passes of existing foreign staff for a period of time.

About 43 per cent of them were identified through data analytics as part of MOM’s proactive investigation efforts. The remaining 57 per cent were identified based on complaints received by the ministry and Tafep, said an MOM spokesman in response to media queries.

Errant employers that breach the Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices will be barred from hiring new foreign workers or renewing existing ones for 12 months to 24 months, under stiffer penalties for discriminatory hiring beginning this year.

The report by MOM, Tafep and the Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management said that perceptions of discrimination appear to have been going up, based on a ministry survey in 2018.

The percentage of those who felt there was discrimination during their job search process rose to 15 per cent in 2018, up from 10 per cent in 2014. Age-related discrimination remained the most commonly perceived form, while the biggest percentage point increase in perceived discrimination was based on personal characteristics of gender and number of children.

This is despite the same survey finding that seven in 10 private sector firms have structured human resources processes and objective criteria in their assessment of job applicants.

MOM also received about 580 complaints between May and August this year related to cost-saving measures taken by some 470 employers, said the report. The vast majority were able to resolve their disputes amicably after the ministry assessed the fairness of the measures.

Tafep separately engaged about 900 employers whose salary cuts affecting close to 52,000 employees appeared to be excessive, and close to 330 of them agreed to review their measures. The remainder were able to justify the necessity of the measures for business survival.

Since March, employers with 10 or more employees have had to notify MOM if they take cost-saving measures that affect employees’ monthly salaries by more than 25 per cent.

As at the end of September, MOM received close to 7,300 notifications from about 5,000 employers, affecting about 250,000 employees.

Overall, one in five employers in cases where MOM intervened improved their practices and provided better support to their employees. To date, no employer has been found to wilfully refuse to channel government support to proper use, said the report.

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