Parliament: New guide for employers to hire people with special needs

The guide will have information on ways to better integrate persons with special needs. ST PHOTO: JASMINE CHOONG

SINGAPORE - There will be more support for employers to hire workers with special needs, with a Job Redesign Guide to be launched by the first half of 2019 to help them adapt the workplace to be more inclusive.

The guide, announced by Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad in Parliament on Tuesday (March 5), will have information on ways to better integrate people with special needs. For example, companies can modify the common workplace, make changes to working arrangements or use assistive technology devices.

Said Mr Zaqy: "Our goal is to build a supportive system to get buy-in from employers to embrace and promote gainful and sustainable employment for persons with special needs.

"Creating a culture and an environment where companies willingly accept, adapt, and redesign jobs for persons with special needs is much better than one which is forced on them, and which could lead to tokenism instead."

Currently, employers of Singaporeans with special needs receive the Special Employment Credit (SEC) which offsets up to 16 per cent of the employee's monthly income, regardless of age.

Employers of Singaporeans with special needs aged 67 and older receive an additional SEC, offsetting up to 22 per cent of the employee's monthly income.

Both credit schemes will be extended for one more year until end-2020 and be reviewed for the longer term, Mr Zaqy added during the debate on his ministry's budget.

Other existing initiatives include the Open Door Programme and Career Trial that help integrate people with special needs into the workforce. These programmes are for both professional, manager, executive and technician (PMET) and rank-and-file jobs.

In the past three years, more than 1,600 people with special needs have been placed through these programmes.

Said Mr Zaqy: "Not all employers and workers have had interactions with persons with special needs. Some employers may be unsure if a person with special needs can perform well on the job. Co-workers may be unsure on how to work with them... Career Trial provides opportunities for employers and persons with special needs to try out each other and make a better assessment of job fit."

He added that hiring targets have not been set for companies and the public sector because such a move would introduce labour market inflexibility.

It would also signal to companies they should only meet targets when they might have the capacity to hire more. Companies might also end up offering menial or low-paying jobs to meet targets, Mr Zaqy said.

Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Manpower Low Yen Ling said former offenders can be re-integrated into society by being employed.

To help former offenders gain skills and improve their chances of employment, Project Phoenix provides training and employment aid. More than 1,200 former offenders found jobs through this last year.

Ms Low said: "We hope that more employers will step forward to offer job opportunities to ex-offenders who can prove to be valuable workers when given a second chance. The tight labour market and slowing workforce growth also present compelling reasons for employers to tap on every available worker."

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