MOM: Discriminatory employers will face stricter penalties and debarment of work pass renewal

MOM: Discriminatory employers will face stricter penalties and debarment of work pass renewal

With updates to the Fair Consideration Framework (FCF), stricter penalties are due for employers who practise discriminatory hiring habits and if found guilty of making false declarations on fair hiring consideration, they can face prosecution in court.

Under the new FCF, firms which are found guilty of workplace discrimination will face a period of debarment during which they will not be able to renew work passes for existing workers. Under the old framework, such debarment was applicable mainly to work passes for new worker applications.

Beyond this, the work pass application will be barred for 12 months for the discriminating firms, which is a six months extension from the previous regulation. According to the Manpower Minister, Josephine Teo, this debarment period can last for up to 24 months for the “most egregious cases”.

Ms Teo reasoned that “This will mean stronger deterrence against workplace discrimination of any kind. More importantly, it sends a clear signal about the need for fairness at work.”  With the new debarment period of 12-months in place, one-third to half of a firm’s foreign workforce cannot be replaced or renewed. This is because most work passes are only valid for two to three years.

Also, firms under a 24-month ban are banned from hiring new foreign workers or using all the worker passes to renew their workers during this period. In other words, these firms will have to hire local workers if they want to stay afloat.

Ms Teo announced these new changes on Tuesday (14 Jan) at the graduation ceremony at Salesforce Office, Suntec Tower 5 for participants in the Professional Conversion Programme (PCP) for Salesforce Platform Professionals.

All discrimination cases, such as race, nationality, gender and age will have higher penalties. Although discriminatory hiring practices have been on the decline, there are remaining firms with such practices, and it is hoped that sterner penalties will stamp out these practices, she remarked.

“Most employers have adapted and it is timely now to turn our attention to weed out the minority, that still think they can treat the FCF job advertising requirement as a paper exercise,” Ms Teo further added.

On 31 December, a Facebook post by Ms Teo stated that the new changes to the FCF would bring “stronger deterrence for discrimination against Singaporeans when hiring”. Not only that, false declarations by firms and personnel about having considered all candidates fairly when that is not the case, can land these individuals in court prosecution. This false declaration offence brings with it the penalty, enforced by the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act, fine up to S$20,000 and jail for up to two years.

Since the introduction of the penalty framework in 2014, the changes announced on Tuesday are in fact the first updates to the framework.

Under the FCF framework, it is mandatory for firms to advertise jobs that pay below S$15,000 a month on the national Jobs Bank for not less than 14 days. After this only can an Employment Pass be filed for a foreign worker.

In 2016, a watch list was introduced to keep watch on employers with hints of discriminatory hiring practices.

Any such discrimination, such as discriminatory HR practices and job advertisements can be reported to the Tripartite Alliance for Fair & Progressive Employment Practices.

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