Knight Frank apologises, retracts tender documents after discriminatory hiring practices flagged

Knight Frank said tender documents for Spring Grove condominium's security services were outdated. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Knight Frank Property Management has retracted tender documents for Spring Grove condominium's security services after the Security Association Singapore (SAS) flagged them for clauses which discriminated against workers based on age.

A Knight Frank spokesman told The Straits Times on Monday (June 20) that the clauses which "could have been perceived as unfair and discriminatory" were from "outdated" documents.

The spokesman said: "We apologise for the oversight in sending tenders that contained dated clauses. Our tender documents were reviewed and updated last year according to employment best practices as laid out by the SAS."

She added that following the incident, Knight Frank has immediately recalled all relevant tender documents and will re-issue fresh copies with updated clauses to the tenderers.

"Knight Frank remains committed to be a responsible business to clients and the communities in which we operate. We apologise for any misunderstanding and inconvenience caused," the spokesman said, adding that the company has reached out to SAS to clarify the matter.

SAS' chief of staff Mr Nicholas Lim had, in a Facebook post and a media statement earlier on Monday, highlighted clauses in Knight Frank's tender stipulating that security officers between the ages of 21 and 55 were to be hired, as well as immediate removal clauses entitling the Management Corporation Strata Title (MCST) or managing agent to remove security officers at the management's discretion.

This, he said, meant that security officers could be dismissed if they were deemed "undesirable" without the management having to provide any form of justification or recourse.

The tender for Spring Grove, which is due to end on Friday at 12pm, stated that the contract for services would start on Sept 1 this year.

Mr Lim raised a similar case involving Savills Property Management in September last year in its tender for security services at Hillview Heights condominium.

Then, SAS had flagged Savills for discrimination against non-Mandarin speakers and older workers in its tender for security services.

Apologising for the issue, Savills said the issue stemmed from "historical tender documentation language from 2000" and "had taken steps to ensure all tender documentation reflects current Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices".

The Ministry of Manpower suspended Savills' work pass privileges for this issue, according to The Business Times.

Mr Lim added that there was a "glaring gap" in the Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices (Tafep), which penalises discrimination by employers - in this case security agencies - while managing agents "appear to get off with merely a warning".

According to Tafep guidelines on the Tripartite Alliance (TAL) website: "Employers must recruit and select employees on the basis of merit (such as skills, experience or ability to perform the job), and regardless of age, race, gender, religion, marital status and family responsibilities, or disability." 

TAL was set up by MOM, the National Trades Union Congress and the Singapore National Employers Federation.

Employers are advised to avoid using age as a selection criterion for hiring "unless you are bound by legal or regulatory requirements. In such cases, you may state this upfront". If the work is physically demanding, "state this requirement in the job description and avoid indicating a specific age group", the TAL site said.

While not legally binding, the guidelines set out that employers will face scrutiny from MOM and could have their work pass privileges curtailed if employment guidelines are not followed.

Following the retraction of the statement by Knight Frank, Mr Lim acknowledged that the company has contacted SAS, and added: "We are always happy to build partnerships with industry stakeholders to ensure proper and fair working conditions for our security officers."

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