SINGAPORE: Over the past three years, about 50 employers in Singapore have had their work pass privileges suspended for discriminatory hiring practices.
About 60 per cent of these cases each year involved nationality-based discrimination, Minister of State for Manpower Gan Siow Huang told Parliament on Thursday (Mar 4).
Another one-third involved gender and age discrimination, split about equally between the two, while the remaining cases involved other types of discrimination, like race, marital status or family responsibilities, she said.
Ms Gan was responding to a question from MP Leon Perera (WP-Aljunied) on the percentage breakdown of cases by discrimination type.
She said the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) takes a serious view of discrimination at the workplace, highlighting that over the past three years, no repeat offenders have been caught.
Ms Gan also said that the Tripartite Alliance for Fair & Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP) handled an average of 400 discrimination cases annually over the same period, including those arising from proactive checks by MOM.
Ms Gan said the ministry will consider publishing these statistics regularly if it would help in shaping public opinion of the situation on the ground, and push employers towards fair employment practices.
The percentage of local job seekers who perceived discrimination during their job search process has increased between 2014 and 2018, she said.
“MOM will continue to conduct regular surveys so that we have a good pulse of public opinion on this matter,” she added.
The ministry also issued an average of 40 warnings a year to employers for less severe breaches, such as lapses in HR practices that resulted in miscommunication and discrimination in the recruitment process.
“In these cases, TAFEP will step in and advise the employers on the required rectifications,” Ms Gan said.
For companies that are not amenable to warnings by MOM as they do not hire foreigners, Ms Gan said an employer who has conducted discriminatory dismissals can be ordered by the Employment Claims Tribunal to compensate employees.
Employment agencies that accumulate demerit points for breaches can also have their licence suspended or revoked.
“We also take companies to task for false declarations of fair hiring practices, and in the past we have sought legal action against such companies,” Ms Gan said.
When asked if the penalty framework will be reviewed given that the suspension of work pass privileges does not tally with offences that involve gender discrimination for instance, Ms Gan said MOM reviewed the penalty framework in 2020 and will continue to review it further.
“In fact after we have reviewed the penalties, we did not see any repeat cases of discriminatory practices from companies that were found in breach,” she added.