47 employers placed on watch list for possible discriminatory hiring practices; most from financial and professional services sectors

Thirty of the employers are from financial and professional services sectors. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - Another 47 employers have been placed on the Fair Consideration Framework (FCF) watch list for potentially discriminatory hiring practices.

They will have their Employment Pass (EP) applications closely scrutinised, and those who are recalcitrant or uncooperative will have their work pass privileges cut back.

The 47 are on top of 1,200 employers previously put on the watch list, said the Manpower Ministry (MOM) in a statement on Wednesday (Aug 5).

Of the 47, 30 are in the financial services and professional services sectors, and the rest are in administrative and support services, manufacturing and education.

They comprise both large and small companies, with the largest employing almost 2,000 professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs).

Among them are banks and fund managers, as well as management consulting firms and firms providing project management and engineering services.

"While these firms were supporting local PMET employment, their workforce profiles raise concerns when compared to industry peers," said the MOM, explaining that they were put on the watch list because of their exceptionally high shares of foreign PMETs compared with their industry peers.

For example, 18 firms have foreigners comprising more than half of their PMET workforce. In addition, 30 employers from the financial and professional services sectors have a high concentration of PMETs from single nationalities.

"We will subject their hiring to closer scrutiny to ensure that there is no nationality bias against locals, which is unacceptable and not in line with fair, merit-based hiring," said the ministry.

The move follows Manpower Minister Josephine Teo's Facebook post on Monday, when she said, among other issues, that there would be updates to the framework to ensure fairness for workers.

She announced in January that employers would face stiffer penalties for discriminatory hiring practices, and could be prosecuted in court if they make false declarations on fair hiring consideration.

Under the updated framework, employers found guilty of workplace discrimination will not be able to renew the work passes of existing employees during the period of debarment. In the past, debarment applied largely to new work pass applications.

Errant employers also cannot apply for new work passes for at least 12 months - up from the previous minimum of six months. The debarment period can extend to 24 months for the most egregious cases.

The FCF was introduced in August 2014 after Singaporeans voiced unhappiness about foreigners taking away good-paying PMET jobs from locals.

The MOM said on Wednesday that of the 190 employers from the financial and professional services sectors put on the watch list since 2016, more than 100 have been taken off after showing a strong commitment to improve their hiring practices.

It added that the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (Tafep), in its initial engagement with these employers, found they were often not familiar with the skillset of local job seekers and the Government's support measures to help locals reskill and upskill.

For example, the ministry said, some firms claimed they were not able to find local workers with the required expertise or experience, including for more technical roles such as senior software engineers and UX designers.

But the fact is they had not cast their net wide enough, like tapping Professional Conversion Programmes, it noted.

They then adjusted their hiring process to actively reach out to more local candidates and tap Workforce Singapore and NTUC-e2i's services, as well as programmes for training and upskilling, like free workshops for emerging technologies.

"As a result, these employers found they were able to hire local employees to meet their manpower needs, and they now have in place a more sustainable recruitment and development strategy to drive their growth in Singapore," said the ministry.

It also said that in these challenging times, "we will be extra vigilant against unfair hiring, to ensure that local job seekers are treated fairly".

The ministry urged people to report specific instances of discriminatory behaviour for investigation at this website.

The identity of whistle-blowers will be kept confidential, it added.

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