Significant increase' in firms with work pass privileges suspended for discriminatory hiring practices

Singapore workers at lunch time

People walk out of their office building as they head for their lunch break in Singapore on Sep 30, 2020. (File photo: AFP/Roslan Rahman)

SINGAPORE: The work pass privileges of about 70 employers were suspended in the first half of this year for discriminatory hiring practices.

This is a “significant increase” from 35 in the whole of 2019, according to the latest Employment Standards Report.

About 43 per cent of them were identified through the Ministry of Manpower’s (MOM) proactive investigation efforts via data analytics, while 57 per cent were identified through complaints received by MOM and Tripartite Alliance for Fair & Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP).

The report was released on Thursday (Nov 19) by MOM, TAFEP and the Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management (TADM).

Authorities also investigated about 260 cases of possible discriminatory hiring practices in the first half of this year, up from 160 cases in the same period in 2019

“The increase was due to more public education efforts on reporting instances of workplace discrimination to TAFEP, as well as MOM’s enhanced detection of unfair hiring behaviour via data analytics,” said an MOM spokesperson.

“To proactively tackle discrimination and improve the perception of fairness at the workplace, MOM monitors the workforce profile of employers for potential unfair hiring practices, investigates those in possible breach, and has also taken stern action against those who try to circumvent fair hiring requirements under the Fair Consideration Framework (FCF),” said the report.

It added that since 2016, MOM has been “proactively identifying” employers with a higher share of foreign professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) compared to industry peers, or those with a “high concentration of a single foreign nationality source”.

These employers are then placed on the FCF watchlist, with their employment pass applications held back while TAFEP helps them improve their human resource practices. Most firms on this list exit within a year, said the report.

Since 2016, more than 1,200 employers have been scrutinised under the FCF, said the report. MOM has rejected, withheld or withdrawn a total of 3,200 employment pass applications by these employers.

Employers on the FCF watchlist have hired more than 4,800 Singaporean PMETs, the report added.

STRENGTHENING ENFORCEMENT

To tackle workplace discrimination, authorities have since January imposed stiffer penalties for all forms of discriminatory hiring.

Employers who breach the Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices will be barred from hiring new foreign workers or renewing existing ones for between 12 and 24 months.

MOM also introduced new licence conditions for employment agencies, mandating compliance with fair recruitment requirements when recruiting for clients.

Licensed agencies must not in any way abet discriminatory hiring by their clients, such as by withholding applications based on age, race, nationality, gender and disability.

They must also brief clients on the requirements, make “reasonable effort” to attract Singaporeans for vacancies and “consider all candidates based on merit”, said the report.

MORE JOB SEEKERS PERCEIVED DISCRIMINATION

According to a 2018 survey conducted by MOM, 69 per cent of employers had put in place processes to ensure fair hiring practices and this proportion had been “increasing steadily” since 2010.

However, the percentage of job seekers who perceived discrimination rose from 10 per cent in 2014 to 15 per cent in 2018.

The survey involved 3,390 establishments and 3,125 job seekers and employees, said MOM.

TAFEP takes a “serious view” of workplace discrimination, said its general manager Faith Li. 

“We have stepped up our efforts to scrutinise more cases of potential workplace discrimination and will continue to work with MOM to take action against discriminatory employers.”

Source: CNA/cc

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