SINGAPORE — In the past five years, less than 10 per cent of complaints about alleged discriminatory workplace practices received each year have been about race or religion, Minister of State for Manpower Teo Ser Luck shared in Parliament on Monday (July 11).
He was responding to questions from Members of Parliament Intan Azura Mokhtar (Ang Mo Kio GRC), Zaqy Mohamad (Chua Chu Kang GRC) and Zainal Sapari (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC) on discriminatory practices in hiring and at work.
Mr Teo noted that the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP) received an average of 400 complaints about workplace discrimination each year between 2011 and 2015. Out of these, only 30 were related to race or religion.
“Most of them were about unfair hiring practices, including posting discriminatory job advertisements and asking inappropriate questions during job interviews. The remaining concerned in-employment issues, such as poor grievance handling and lack of sensitivity in communicating company policies and practices,” said Mr Teo.
And since 2014, 10 employers have received warnings for race- or religion-related discrimination, while an additional 12 have had their work pass privileges curtailed, he added.
MPs also questioned the effectiveness of current measures and enforcement powers, with Workers’ Party Non-Constituency MP Leon Perera asking how the ministry would deal with a potential issue of recalcitrant companies that do not need depend on work passes.
While noting that discriminatory practices cannot be completely eliminated, Mr Teo said the relatively stable figures indicate that the ministry’s multi-prong approach of imposing penalties and TAFEP’s advisory work with companies have been effective. TAFEP also checks back on companies, and there have not been any repeat complaints so far.
Besides stepping up public education campaigns on embracing diversity, TAFEP will also be ramping up training for HR practitioners to ensure hiring practices are fair and based on merit, Mr Teo added.