The Fair Consideration Framework will be updated this year to ensure that Singaporean workers are not discriminated against in hiring by employers who favour foreign talent.
Minister for Manpower Josephine Teo said on Facebook on 1 January, “Expect stronger deterrence for discrimination against Singaporeans when hiring, but also stronger support for employers who are committed to giving our people a fair chance.”
She shared that MOM is ‘rededicating’ itself to strengthening fairness at the workplace as a value and a virtues.
“With fairness as a foundation, we can have more progressive workplace practices,” wrote Ms Teo.
The Fair Consideration Framework, introduced in August 2014, followed the decline of new foreign talent into the country after Singaporeans aired their dissatisfaction over foreigners taking away good professional, managerial and executive (PMET) jobs from local.
The Framework requires companies with over 25 employees to advertise PMET jobs that pay less than S$12,000 a month for at least 14 days before they apply to MOM for an Employment Pass (EP) for a foreigner.
In July 2018, the Framework was updated to cover firms with more than 10 employees and jobs that pay less than S$15,000 a month.
Companies that seem to favour hiring foreign over local talent will be placed on an MOM watchlist and have their EP applications for foreign workers scrutinised more closely.
Earlier in March 2019, Ms Teo announced in parliament that there are still 350 companies on the watch list across all sectors, with the top five being administrative and support services, education, information and communication, professional services and wholesale trade.
Ms Teo also said that about 2,300 EPs had been rejected or withheld by MOM or withdrawn by employers since 2016.
Details of the latest update to the Framework will be released in a couple of weeks, according to media reports.
On her New Year’s Day Facebook post, Ms Teo also talked about the Tripartite Alliance for Fair Employment Practice (Tafep). Tafep works with companies to improve their human resource practices and support local hiring. It also ensures that when jobs are advertised, there are no gender, age, race, physical or past medical conditions as barriers to hiring a person.
In Parliament last year, Ms Teo acknowledged that Tafep may be unpopular among business, but assured the House that Tafep “is not vindictive”, seeking only to ensure that the interest of PMETs are safeguarded.
“Employers who are fair to locals need not worry, but if they are not, please understand why we don’t accept it,” she said.
MOM to ‘strike a fair balance’
Ms Teo emphasised in her first post of 2020 that MOM actively pursue fairness at the workplace, pointing to re-employment support for older workers, income supplement schemes for retirees, reskilling of workers, and fair payouts for those who have been retrenched.
She added, “To a self-employed person, it is fair to be paid on time for work done and compensated for prolonged sick leave. To a domestic helper, it is fair to have a rest day. To outsourced workers, it is fair to have a proper rest area. That is why we launched Workright and Workcare.”
Ms Teo explained that employers also want to be treated fairly.
“Sometimes, disgruntled employees wrongly accuse them. They count on MOM to be fair investigators. Other times, irresponsible employment agents frustrate them. They rely on MOM to be fair disciplinarians. When there are calls for legislation to place more obligations on employers, they look to MOM to strike a fair balance.”
Apart from the update to the Fair Consideration Framework, Ms Teo said MOM is also ‘gearing up’ for Budget 2020 and the Committee of Supply debate.
“In good times, it is fair for employers to share gains. In times of change, it is fair for the Government to support the efforts of businesses that also benefit workers,” said Ms Teo.