60% of job discrimination complaints in S’pore each year are nationality-based

SINGAPORE – Out of an average of 379 workplace discrimination complaints received each year from 2014 to the first half of 2021 by Singapore’s fair employment watchdog, 233 – or around 60 per cent – were nationality-based, said Manpower Minister Tan See Leng on Tuesday (Sept 14).

There were also complaints about discrimination based on age (69), gender (49) and race and language (39). There were 13 complaints that had to do with marital status and family responsibilities, as well as seven for religion-based and two for disability-based discrimination.

Dr Tan shared these figures in written responses to parliamentary questions filed by labour MP Patrick Tay (Pioneer).

All workplace discrimination complaints were investigated by the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (Tafep), Dr Tan added.

He reiterated what Senior Minister of State for Manpower Koh Poh Koon had told the House on Tuesday – that about two-thirds of reported cases are not substantiated, and the majority are misunderstandings that are subsequently clarified and not pursued further by either party.

Out of 121 complaints referred to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) for investigation, an average of 41 employers each year were found to have breached fair employment guidelines and had their work pass privileges suspended.

This comes a week after the managing agent of Hillview Heights condominium was flagged by the Security Association Singapore for discriminating against non-Mandarin speakers and older workers.

A tender by Savills Property Management had stipulated that a security agency must provide a “Chinese-speaking” security guard, with penalties for not complying including a warning letter and deduction of $100 per shift. The agency could also be fined $100 if the guard provided was not between 21 and 60 years old.

In his National Day Rally address on Aug 29, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had announced that the Government would tackle such unfair hiring practices by enshrining Tafep guidelines into law and by creating a tribunal.

Dr Tan also noted in another written response that using an employee’s consumption of paid sick leave as a key performance indicator was “inappropriate”.

Workers’ Party MP Louis Chua (Sengkang GRC) had asked if there were regulations governing such a practice.

Dr Tan said employees concerned or unclear about how their sick leave would be taken into account by employers should approach their union, the Singapore National Employers Federation, the labour movement or Tafep for help.

“If employees or unions cannot satisfactorily resolve the matter with their management, they should approach MOM for further assistance,” he added.

Dr Tan pointed out that paid sick leave is a basic protection under the Employment Act, and that the ministry expects all employers to excuse their employees from work if they are certified unfit to work by a doctor.

When appraising employees’ performance, employers should be fair and objective and take into consideration overall ability, performance and contributions, he added.