Creating a fairer workplace in Singapore

Prior to the passage of the Workplace Fairness Legislation in 2024, Singapore has outlined key areas that will be protected in the workplace.
By: | August 7, 2023

Singapore’s Tripartite Committee on Workplace Fairness has released its final report on proposed legislation to combat workplace discrimination.

The committee, chaired by Tan See Leng, Minster of Manpower, Ng Chee Meng, Secretary-General of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), and Dr Robert Yap, President of Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF), made 22 recommendations, up from the initial 20, after public consultations.

The report emphasised the need to consider fundamental societal norms while formulating the legislation. Age, nationality, sex, marital status, pregnancy status, caregiving responsibilities, race, religion, language, disability, and mental health conditions are among the recommended protected characteristics.

The legislation will be tightly scoped to protect against common forms of discrimination, supporting social and economic objectives. Even without explicit mention in the law, the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP) guidelines protect employees from all forms of discrimination.

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The government has accepted all 22 recommendations, with the proposed legislation applying to 75% of all employees, with exemptions for organisations with fewer than 25 employees. Mediation will be the first step in dispute resolution, with adjudication at the Employment Claims Tribunal as a last resort. While acknowledging employees’ preference for non-legal solutions, Dr Yap highlighted the need for legislation to eliminate workplace discrimination and to foster a fairer workplace by deterring unfair practices.

While suggestions for workplace harassment and indirect discrimination were considered, existing legal protections cover harassment cases. The Workplace Fairness Legislation, which is expected to be passed in the second half of 2024, will not explicitly prohibit indirect discrimination to avoid uncertainty and instead focus on resolving such cases through TAFEP, reported CNA.