Another step for a more inclusive S’pore with the Workplace Fairness Legislation

Our stance is clear: There is no room at all for workplace discrimination in Singapore. Not against senior citizens, women, racial minorities, people with disabilities or mental health conditions, or people of faith. 

When you harnessed an individual’s strength, you can create positive outcomes at work. Just ask the companies that have benefited from age-diverse teams, and the software firm SAP where a hire with autism programmed an app which cut document processing times from three days to 20 minutes.       

Beyond those quantifiable metrics, though, discrimination is contrary to the ideals set forth in our National Pledge: We do strive for an equal society, regardless of differences in race, language and religion.  

So it is no surprise that our PAP government has accepted (Aug 4) the Workplace Fairness Legislation (WFL) set out by the Tripartite Committee on Workplace Fairness. This landmark employment law is a shift towards a Singapore which includes every single Singaporean in economic and social progress — no matter who he or she fundamentally is. 

Protection for Singapore’s diverse workers 

Briefly, the WFL includes strengthened protection and fair redress against workplace discrimination. It also has a proper system for resolving disputes and protects employees from retaliation

“From surveys, engagements and complaints, we know the common forms of discrimination experienced in Singapore. The WFL will prohibit these common forms of discrimination — including age, sex, family status, race, nationality, and mental health,” said Minister for Manpower Tan See Leng on how the WFL’s list of protected characteristics was selected for relevancy and with rigour. 

So you cannot be passed over from hiring simply because you are a senior, for example.  

Nor if you are a pregnant woman or a new mother or have caregiving responsibilities; nor because you are a certain race or religion. Nor can you be dismissed from employment if you have a disability or have a mental health condition like depression. 

In fact, we worked together with the Committee so that now the WFL goes beyond its initial provisions for employees with disabilities.  

Source: Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped 

This final draft of the WFL recommends that employers adjust the job or work environment so that these employees can best do their job. Wheelchair ramps for those who require them and an augmented hearing loop system for the hard–of-hearing? These are possible with the WFL.    

“It will give greater protection for workers (including PMEs), ensure a fair and level playing field and build inclusive and progressive workplaces in Singapore,” posted (Aug 4) PAP MP Patrick Tay (Pioneer SMC) about how the WFL focuses on holistic help. 

MP Tay was one of the key drafters of the WFL. This was alongside Minister Tan, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong, Senior Minister of State for Manpower Koh Poh Koon and Senior Minister of State for Manpower Gan Siow Huang — the WFL remains an important project for our representatives and is augmented by partnerships with the National Trade Union Congress as well as the Singapore National Employers Federation. 

Refreshing the social compact  

Making sure that all of Singapore’s workers can earn an honest living is a longstanding and continuing priority for us. 

Where the landmark WFL protects Singapore’s workers against all forms of discrimination, it joins the existing Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices, which foreground merit during hiring. It also complements the Enabling Masterplan, which supports meaningful employment for people with disabilities. 

Source: Tan See Leng / Facebook 

Moreover, the global outlook is for uncertain times and an increasingly competitive economy. 

For Singapore to move forward successfully in this difficult new era, we really need to relate to each other in more inclusive and cohesive ways. The WFL, as part of our overall plan to empower every Singaporean with lifelong employability, is one big step towards getting there.