Government agencies told: No age bias in hiring

Reminder followed ST report on tenders capping age of security guards

GOVERNMENT agencies have been reminded not to discriminate against older workers, after The Straits Times reported that recent tenders had capped the age of security guards.

The Ministry of Finance (MOF), which oversees government procurement policies, issued a circular to all ministries and statutory boards on Tuesday, telling them not to practise discrimination when outsourcing services.

An MOF spokesman said the ministry "advocates the use of performance-based specifications in government tender documents".

The ministry added that it has reminded agencies to "adopt practices that are consistent with" guidelines drawn up by the Tripartite Alliance for Fair Employment Practices (Tafep). These prohibit discrimination against workers in any industry on the basis of age, gender or nationality.

On Monday, The Straits Times reported that recent government tenders had capped the age of security guards to be hired at 55, violating anti-discrimination hiring guidelines.

The ministries have corrected what they said were "an oversight". They added that the errors did not stop them from hiring older security guards.

The Manpower Ministry said yesterday: "Employers should not restrict the recruitment opportunities to individuals of certain age groups."

It reiterated that while 62 is the minimum retirement age that can be set by law, employers are required to re-employ staff aged between 62 and 65 if their work performance is satisfactory and they are medically fit. "There is no statutory age upon which employees are required to stop working," it added.

The Public Service Division (PSD) - the civil service's human resource arm - yesterday pledged to continue supporting Tafep's guidelines.

"We do not ask for information such as age or date of birth, gender, marital status, race and religion in our job application forms," said Mr Tan Hoe Soon, a PSD director.

"We will continue to work with public-sector agencies to adhere to fair and non-discriminatory employment practices."

The steps taken by the government agencies were applauded by Mr T. Mogan, president of the Security Association of Singapore, which represents about 150 security firms.

"The Government is encouraging older workers to keep working and wants firms to continue to hire them, so government agencies have to lead by example," he said.

tohyc@sph.com.sg