Defining workplace discrimination in Singapore

Legislation is being crafted to ban workplace discrimination but concerns have been raised over its clarity and how it will impact employers.
By: | March 27, 2023

Singapore is still deliberating the parameters of workplace discrimination to be covered in any new legislation, said Zaqy Mohamd, Senior Minister of State for Manpower.

Speaking at a dialogue on workplace fairness legislation, Zaqy noted that feedback regarding the definition of discrimination is ongoing, and that further clarity would be provided when legislation is enacted.

At the dialogue, labour movements and HR professionals discussed the recommendation of the Tripartite Committee on Workplace Fairness, which were outlined in an interim reported released in February 2023.

The report proposed legislation that involved banning discrimination against five protected characteristics, which include age; nationality; sex, marital and pregnancy status, and caregiving responsibilities; race, region, and language; and disability and mental health conditions, across all stages of employment. Other recommendations included a wider range of remedies for employees and proportionate penalties for employers in the form of enforcement levers.

Although several employers raised concerns about how the legislation would protect them, the panellists suggested that safeguards would be put in place and that the onus would be on potential employees to prove clear discrimination. The panellists also emphasised that a balance is required to ensure that the legislation is not overly harsh and helps organisations establish transparent guidelines on workplace fairness, reported The Business Times.

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A panellist at the dialogue, Edwin Ng, Honorary Secretary of the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF), said, “The purpose of the legislation is on deterrence, but the focus should be on the other end of the spectrum, which is to uplift the standards of HR practices within organisations to enable every employee to have a fair chance at work.”