Job discrimination: Errant firms face music

In the last two years, a dozen companies have had their privileges for employing foreigners curtailed because they had discriminated against workers or job seekers for reasons of race or religion.

Minister of State for Manpower Teo Ser Luck told Parliament yesterday that another 10 were given warnings for doing the same.

These steps were taken after the authorities toughened their position on workplace discrimination in 2014, he said.

Mr Teo said that between 2011 and last year, an average of 400 such complaints were received yearly by his ministry and the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (Tafep).

Of these, fewer than 10 per cent - or about 30 a year - were about race or religion. Most were about unfair hiring practices, such as discriminatory job advertisements and asking inappropriate questions at job interviews, he said. The rest were about conduct at work, like poor grievance-handling.

Mr Teo was replying to three MPs, including Mr Zaqy Mohamad (Chua Chu Kang GRC), who had asked about discriminatory practices in hiring and at work.

Before 2014, Tafep took a more advisory approach towards errant employers. But since then, the Manpower Ministry has adopted a tougher position, like forbidding them from hiring foreigners.

Before 2014, Tafep took a more advisory approach, counselling employers. But since then, the Manpower Ministry (MOM) has adopted a tougher position, like forbidding them from hiring foreigners.

This appears to have been effective, Mr Teo said. The authorities found no repeat complaints when they checked back on errant firms.

He added that Tafep would step up its public education campaign on workforce diversity, as well as ramp up training for human resource practitioners on fair hiring.

Two out of three companies also said they have implemented fair employment practices, Mr Teo said, citing a 2014 MOM survey.

Of the remaining one-third, most said they were planning to do so, he told Dr Intan Azura Mokhtar (Ang Mo Kio GRC), who had asked for the proportion of companies with a racially inclusive workforce.

Mr Teo also said, in his reply to Non-Constituency MP Leon Perera, the next survey in 2018 would take into consideration feedback from employees and job seekers.

Minister of State for Education Janil Puthucheary told Mr Muhamad Faisal Abdul Manap (Aljunied GRC) that schools tackle discrimination from an early age through character and citizenship education as well as social studies.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 12, 2016, with the headline 'Job discrimination: Errant firms face music'. Print Edition | Subscribe