Singapore watchdog Tafep not taking action on Ubisoft after sexual harassment probe

Ubisoft was probed by Tafep in July last year following anonymous feedback on reports earlier that month by video game news sites. PHOTO: UBISOFT SINGAPORE/FACEBOOK

SINGAPORE - The national watchdog for fair employment practices will not be taking any action against the Singapore office of French video game developer Ubisoft after completing a probe into claims of sexual harassment and workplace discrimination at the studio.

The Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (Tafep) explained in a statement on Thursday (Jan 27) that the company, which has worked on the famed Assassin's Creed games, had handled the workplace harassment reports that it received appropriately.

Tafep added that Ubisoft Singapore has a structured process to remunerate its employees fairly, which does not disadvantage Singaporeans based on nationality or race.

The game studio was probed by the watchdog in July last year following anonymous feedback on reports earlier that month by video game news sites like Kotaku.

Kotaku's report alleged sexual harassment and workplace discrimination at Ubisoft Singapore, based on interviews with more than 20 current and former employees of the studio.

The report also said the company's former managing director, Mr Hugues Ricour, was accused of harassing a female colleague.

Mr Ricour, who assumed the role in 2018, was no longer studio head of Ubisoft Singapore after a "leadership audit", Kotaku reported in November 2020, citing an internal company e-mail.

The company confirmed that he would remain in Ubisoft but was leaving the Singapore studio. His LinkedIn page shows that he is now working in an Ubisoft Paris office and has been there since March 2021.

Tafep said on Thursday that following Ubisoft's investigations into Mr Ricour for workplace harassment, "the company demoted the perpetrator to a single contributor role, removed him from the Singapore office, and served him with a final written warning".

The watchdog said this was one example in which the game company had taken appropriate action against perpetrators for workplace harassment reports found to be true, adding that the studio had investigated every report it received.

Tafep said some actions Ubisoft took for past cases included written or verbal warnings and demotion. Arrangements were also made to minimise future work interactions between the perpetrators and the harassed workers, where relevant.

"The company has a structured system to manage workplace harassment, including hiring independent third parties to conduct investigations, and providing a confidential reporting platform for employees," said the watchdog.

It added that the current managing director of Ubisoft Singapore, Mr Darryl Long, also took the issues raised in the media reports seriously, and has met more than 150 employees so far to understand their concerns and address them.

The company has about 500 employees here.

Another claim raised in reports was of unfair treatment of workers at the studio, such as pay differences based on race or nationality.

Tafep said that Ubisoft Singapore took the reports seriously and commissioned an independent human resources consultancy firm to review its salary structure.

The findings were shared with Tafep and the agency also carried out additional sample checks to verify them.

The results showed that company employees' salaries were based on their performance and "there were reasonable justifications where there was disparity, such as differences in experience or seniority", said Tafep.

Based on these findings, the watchdog will not be taking action against Ubisoft Singapore and has closed the case.

Still, the agency said that it expects all employers to treat any report of workplace harassment seriously.

"Employers have an important role to create a safe workplace that is free from harassment, and should put in place proper grievance handling or harassment reporting procedures," it said.

"Employers should also remunerate employees fairly, taking into consideration factors such as ability, performance, contribution, skills, knowledge and experience."

Tafep warned that it will work with the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) to take enforcement action against companies that fail to provide a safe environment or are found to have discriminatory employment practices.

This includes reviewing the firm's work pass privileges.

The Straits Times reported previously that this could include MOM barring an errant company from applying for new work passes for foreign staff, or renewing existing ones, for between 12 and 24 months.

As most work passes are valid for two to three years before they must be renewed, this could have serious impact on a company.

On Tafep's findings, Ubisoft's Mr Long said that the studio has "put best practices in place at Ubisoft Singapore to ensure a safe, respectful, inclusive and equitable workplace for every member of our team".

He added: "We will continue striving to be an exemplary employer in Singapore and the region, one that attracts and retains the best talents and creates amazing games that enrich the lives of our players."

Ubisoft Singapore said last year it had taken steps to make the company's working environment safe and inclusive, including anti-harassment and anti-discrimination training as well as mandatory safe workplace training for all current and new employees.

Outside Singapore, Ubisoft's offices elsewhere and several game companies have been dogged by sexual harassment and discrimination complaints as part of a #MeToo movement sweeping across the video game industry.

In July last year, a United States fair employment government agency sued Call Of Duty and World Of Warcraft maker Activision Blizzard over alleged sexual harassment and discrimination against women that had gone on for years.

In September, the company reached an agreement with a separate US federal agency to create a US$18 million (S$24.3 million) compensation fund for workplace harassment victims.

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