Harsher penalties against discriminatory hiring practices, including non-renewal of work passes for foreign staff
SINGAPORE — Companies that commit discriminatory hiring practices can expect stiffer penalties, such as longer debarment periods when applying for work passes, fines and even imprisonment of key personnel involved in the hiring, the Manpower Ministry said on Tuesday (Jan 14).
SINGAPORE — Companies that commit discriminatory hiring practices can expect stiffer penalties, such as longer debarment periods when applying for work passes, fines and even imprisonment of key personnel involved in the hiring, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said on Tuesday (Jan 14).
While measures put in place over the years have helped to make fair employment norms more widespread, MOM said in a statement that there are still “some employers” who have failed to adapt.
Speaking at a graduation ceremony for trainees of a Professional Conversion Programme for Salesforce Platform Professionals, Minister of Manpower Josephine Teo said that since 2006, the Government has progressively stepped up efforts to combat workplace discrimination.
In 2014, it introduced the Fair Consideration Framework (FCF) to specifically target discrimination against Singapore residents.
The framework requires employers to advertise on jobs portal MyCareersFuture.sg before submitting Employment Pass applications, providing accurate job descriptions so that suitable applicants may apply, and hiring on merit.
“Going by employment rates of locals, whether women or older workers, we have actually made big strides,” Mrs Teo said.
However, she added: “Most employers have adapted and it is timely now to turn our attention to weed out the minority who still think they can treat the FCF job advertising requirement as a paper exercise.”
Under the updated framework, penalties against such errant employers will be enhanced as follows:
- Duration for those debarred from applying work passes was lengthened. The minimum period of debarment was doubled from six to 12 months. For the most egregious cases, the debarment period can be up to 24 months.
Debarment extended to renewal of existing foreign workers. Debarment used to mostly apply only to new work pass applications, but will now be expanded to also include work pass renewals of existing foreign workers. The duration of most work passes are two to three years. This means that if a company is given a 12-month debarment, a third to half of their existing foreign workers cannot have their work passes renewed, and the firm cannot hire new foreign workers. With a 24-month debarment, up to all the company’s work passes cannot be renewed, and the firm cannot hire new foreign workers.
Prosecution against employers and key personnel who make false declarations. If employers falsely declare in their Employment Pass applications that they had practised fair consideration, MOM will prosecute them under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act. If convicted, they could face up to two years' jail or fines of up to $20,000, or both.
Mrs Teo noted that discrimination is not easy to investigate, adding that from 2014 to 2018, the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices followed up on about 2,000 complaints.
Action was taken against employers in 680 cases, with 280 of them resulting in debarment from hiring new foreign workers.
About half of these cases were for nationality discrimination and the other half for other forms of discrimination cases, such as on the basis of age, race, and gender, Mrs Teo said.
She added that the stiffer penalties will mean “stronger deterrence against workplace discrimination of any kind, and more importantly, sends a clear signal about the need for fairness at work”.
Five companies have been taken to task under the enhanced penalties, with Ti2 Logistics being the first case to be charged.
It declared in an Employment Pass application in July last year that it had interviewed two applicants who were Singapore citizens and that Singaporeans were considered fairly for the position of business development manager.
However, it had already pre-selected the Employment Pass applicant and had no intention to interview any Singaporean candidates.
Related topicsJosephine Teo employment discrimination foreign workers penalty
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