President Halimah welcomes move to enshrine fair employment guidelines into law

President Halimah Yacob co-chaired Tafep in 2006 when she was NTUC assistant secretary-general.
President Halimah Yacob co-chaired Tafep in 2006 when she was NTUC assistant secretary-general.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - President Halimah Yacob has welcomed the announcement by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong that the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (Tafep) guidelines will be enshrined into law.

It is a good progression in Singapore's journey to create fairer workplaces, she said in a Facebook post on Monday (Aug 30).

The move, said Mr Lee in his National Day Rally speech on Sunday, sends a signal that the country will not tolerate discrimination at workplaces.

A tribunal will be set up to deal with the issue. It will protect workers against discrimination based on nationality, age, race, religion and disability, as well as other kinds of discrimination covered by Tafep.

Tafep was set up in 2006 as a three-way partnership involving the Government, National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) and Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF).

In March, Minister of State for Manpower Gan Siow Huang told Parliament that Tafep handled an average of 400 discrimination cases per year over the past three years.

President Halimah co-chaired Tafep in 2006 when she was NTUC assistant secretary-general, alongside Mr Bob Tan, who was SNEF vice-president and a council member of the Singapore Business Federation,

It was not an easy journey, she said. "For example, even what personal questions employers were allowed to ask in job application forms deemed unnecessary to the job were subject to contention," she recalled.

"Fundamentally, we all want the opportunity to be employed and to prove our worth at the workplace without being subject to stereotypes or prejudices, which have nothing to do with our ability or contributions."

PM Lee also touched on the plight of low-wage workers, she noted.

"The greatest dignity for a worker is the ability to support his family through his own labour. Our society needs to value all work and not just those that come with high credentials," she said.

The Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated the value of front-line workers who work in sectors such as cleaning, food and beverage as well as delivery services, but many such workers are lowly paid, she noted.

"With better income, they will be able to give greater support to their children, afford their own flats and save for their retirement. There is a tremendous cost to society if these needs are neglected."

PM Lee had announced that the qualifying age for the Workfare Income Supplement scheme will be lowered to 30, from 35, to help younger lower-wage workers.

The Government will also raise the amount it spends on the scheme, from the current $850 million a year, to $1.1 billion in two years' time, he said.

President Halimah also lauded the move to allow Muslim nurses in public healthcare to wear the tudung from November.

She said it will "ease the dilemma faced by many Muslim women today who want to work in sectors which do not allow the tudung".

The move is the outcome of many years of painstaking effort by Muslim leaders working quietly in concert with the Government and the community, she added.

"Giving (Muslim women) the choice to do so is to allow them to expand their horizons and pursue careers in areas that they truly enjoy. It can only be good for our society."