Singapore champions mediation to promote fairness in the workplace
Singapore’s upcoming legislation on workplace fairness aims to address discrimination more effectively by implementing targeted penalties while promoting mediation as the preferred method for settling disputes.
Over the past five years, the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP) and the Ministry of Manpower have received approximately 315 discrimination complaints annually, said Koh Poh Koon, Senior Minister of State for Manpower of Singapore.
TAFEP was established in 2006 to provide assistance and advice to individuals facing workplace discrimination or harassment, in the absence of legislation.
According to Koh, the most common type of discrimination complaints received by TAFEP relate to nationality, age, sex, race, and language. To preserve workplace harmony, the new legislation, expected to be completed in 2024, will protect against discrimination and retaliation for reporting such incidents.
The Tripartite Committee on Workplace Fairness, convened in July 2021, currently focuses on resolving disputes through mediation, with employers required to establish grievance-handling channels and processes within their organisations. If the internal resolution fails, mediation at the Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management will be the next step, followed by adjudication at the Employment Claims Tribunal as a last resort.
Koh highlighted that penalties under the new legislation will be graded based on the severity of the offence. Details on penalty levels will be discussed when the legislation is presented for deliberation in parliament, reported The Straits Times.
Initially, small organisations with fewer than 25 employees will be exempt from the legislation, but the exemption will gradually be tightened over the next five years. “The government worked closely with partners including the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises to support small organisations in their journey to ramp up capabilities,” said Koh.