The Straits Times says

Keep workers central to business plans

Companies must keep employees central to their plans even as they cope with the debilitating effects of the coronavirus pandemic on their operations and bottom lines. The need to do so has been underlined in a series of messages and announcements in recent weeks. These have been timely reminders because businesses cannot hope to thrive in a post-Covid-19 era if the tripartite system suffers a setback now should workers feel disaffected, disgruntled or alienated by quick-fix corporate solutions. Government leaders acknowledge that companies should make an objective assessment of their current situation and how best they can advance their interests.

However, whether businesses choose to pivot, transform themselves or right-size, it is important to make provisions for the well-being of employees, who also are stakeholders and an important resource. Reminders to companies to look after their employees, including through measures such as retraining or redeployment if possible, will resonate with a workforce that is facing an uncertain future. And rather than bemoan a past that has been subverted by the effects of the pandemic, companies must keep focused on the future and how to emerge stronger. Not only will companies benefit from the loyalty of retained workers when the turnaround comes - and there are signs of that happening - but the country also gains from strengthening of societal cohesion.

The Government, on its part, has been paying attention to the needs of workers in broad areas during the downturn. To better protect them from infectious diseases and workplace accidents, for instance, the Manpower Ministry is working closely with bosses and building owners on managing risks and staying vigilant. Workers are also receiving better mental health support, with a free online assessment tool iWorkHealth to be launched early next year to help employers identify sources of work stress. Along with ameliorative moves such as this, employers face punitive measures if they treat workers' rights lightly.

This was seen in how more employers were being investigated for possible discriminatory hiring practices. The Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices investigated about 260 such cases in the first half of this year, 60 per cent more than in the same period last year. About 90 employers had their work pass privileges suspended eventually due to discriminatory hiring practices as at August this year. Vigilance in investigating discriminatory practices and taking errant employers to task play an important role in upholding labour's trust in a tripartite system that has seen Singapore through bad economic times and periods of growth - from which companies have benefited substantially. Taking care of workers now is a way for firms to take care of themselves in the future.

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