Advisory issued to help prevent, manage workplace harassment

December 24, 201510:17 am565 views

The Manpower Ministry, National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) and Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) have jointly issued a Tripartite Advisory on Managing Workplace Harassment to help employers and employees prevent and manage workplace harassment, the parties said in a joint press release on Wednesday (Dec 23).

The advisory provides guidance to employers and employees on preventive measures to adopt to ensure a safe and conducive workplace. It also recommends proactive management and remedial actions that employers and affected persons can take if harassment occurs at the workplace.

Threatening, abusive, or insulting language; cyber bullying, sexual harassment and stalking are listed examples of workplace harassment.

The advisory said: “Workplace harassment can also take place through different modes of communications, such as by email, text messaging or social media. It can occur outside of the office space, such as on business trips, clients’ premises or other work-related occasions.”

The partners said a workgroup comprising stakeholders from the Government, unions, employers, HR professionals and subject matter experts developed the Advisory after the Protection from Harassment Act was passed by Parliament in March 2014.

The workgroup also sought the views of the Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE), Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations (SCWO) and Migrant Workers’ Centre (MWC) in drafting the Advisory, which includes good practices the tripartite partners and workgroup members will actively promote, the three parties said.

Added MOM, NTUC and SNEF: “Both employers and employees have an interest and responsibility in preventing harassment at the workplace and managing it properly if it happens.”

However, a lawyer said victims could face difficulties in seeking redress.

“Some of the complaints could entail incidents that may happen between colleagues in a verbal context, and that means that getting that documented, or even if it’s within the earshot of other colleagues to ask other witnesses to come forward at times can be quite a challenge,” said Mr Wendell Wong, director of dispute resolution at Drew & Napier.


In a separate statement on Wednesday, AWARE said that it “strongly applauds” the advisory and the consultative approach of the workgroup in developing it.

The advocacy group said it has long highlighted the prevalence and seriousness of workplace sexual harassment in Singapore. AWARE’s Sexual Assault Care Centre has received 62 complaints about workplace sexual harassment so far this year, slightly higher than the 61 cases in 2014.

Ms Corinna Lim, Executive Director of AWARE, said the advisory confirms that employers must play a proactive role in preventing and addressing workplace harassment.

She added that people facing workplace sexual harassment usually are not looking to punish their harassers, but merely want to see employers put a stop to the harassment: “If they have no confidence in the employer, they may suffer in silence, or just leave. But if an employer has proper policies and processes, it makes a real difference.”

Similarly, NTUC’s assistant secretary-general Mr Patrick Tay said that he hopes the tripartite advisory will push employers to build in place sufficient and more comprehensive human resource policies, and encourage employees to make reports about any genuine harassment cases in their workplace.

“It’s important for the harassed employee or the aggrieved workers to come forward, to not just take self-help measures, but also be willing to come forward,” he said.

AWARE pointed out that most major business centres – including Hong Kong, London and New York – make employers responsible for addressing harassment at the workplace.  The NGO’s corporate training arm, Catalyse Consulting, has updated its anti-harassment curriculum to help employers understand and implement these recommendations effectively, AWARE said.

“Introducing anti-harassment measures for the first time can seem challenging to employers,” said Ms Rachel Yeoh, Executive at Catalyse Consulting. “But we draw on our experience to make the transition a smooth one. The results are a more inclusive workplace – and more engaged employees.”

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