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Standards on fair employment practices to become law

SINGAPORE (CNA) – The Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices should be enshrined in law, the government proposed in the White Paper on Singapore Women’s Development yesterday.

“This gives a strong signal that we do not tolerate discrimination of any form, including against women,” said Minister of State for Manpower Gan Siow Huang.

“For example, a company that’s looking at hiring a new employee should be looking at qualities such as the person’s experience, the person’s ability to perform the job and not look at whether the person is a man or woman before hiring a candidate.”

Besides bad employment practices, the Tripartite Committee on Fair Workplace Practices will also be looking at new proposals to allow people to report workplace discrimination that they observe or experience, she added.

Employers will have to put in place procedures to deal with complaints or reports of discrimination, according to the White Paper. They will also have to protect the confidentiality of complainants and prohibit retaliation.

People walk along the Raffles Place financial business district in Singapore. PHOTO: AFP

A set of tripartite guidelines on flexible work arrangements will be ready by 2024. Under the guidelines, employers will have to consider such requests from employees “fairly and properly”, Gan said.

“Flexible work arrangements will become a norm in our future workplaces, and this enables more women, especially those with caregiving responsibilities, to remain or to return to work.”

Offering such arrangements allows employers to tap on a larger pool of talent such as seniors, she added.

The government aims to create a workplace norm where employees feel that it is acceptable to request for flexible work arrangements, while maintaining the employers’ prerogative to accept or reject requests based on their business needs, it said in the White Paper.

It plans to increase the adoption of the voluntary Tripartite Standard on Flexible Work Arrangements by employers to 40 per cent by the end of 2022, up from the current 27 per cent.

“We will also continue to sustain ground-up efforts that support work-life harmony through our work-life ambassadors and work with partners to encourage greater utilisation of parental leave, with the public service taking the lead,” the White Paper read. A more equitable representation of women in leadership positions can also help to overcome existing gender stereotypes, the government noted in the White Paper.

Thus, the Singapore Exchange Listing Rules and Practice Guidance to the Code of Corporate Governance were revised to enhance board diversity, including gender diversity, in listed companies.

“This is a significant move to secure listed companies’ commitment to appoint more women on boards,” the White Paper read.

Women in Singapore have made “tremendous progress” at the workplace, said Gan. More than seven in 10 women have jobs today, compared to five in 10 in the 1990s.