Yesterday night (29 Aug) at the National Day Rally, PM Lee said that the Tripartite Alliance for Fair & Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP) guidelines will be enshrined in law so as to give the government “more teeth” to deal with workplace discrimination.

He said that over the years, the government has received repeated requests to toughen up TAFEP especially from the Labour Movement and NTUC MPs. They have pushed for anti-discrimination laws that carry penalties.

“The government has held back, because we did not want the process to become legalistic or confrontational. It is better if disputes can be resolved amicably, through persuasion or mediation but after consulting the tripartite partners, we have decided to adopt the Labour MPs’ suggestions,” he said.

“We will enshrine the TAFEP guidelines in law. This will give them more teeth and expand the range of actions we can take.”

PM Lee added that the government will create a Tribunal to deal with workplace discrimination.

“This will protect workers against discrimination based on nationality whether you’re Singaporean or non-Singaporean. It will also prohibit other kinds of discrimination covered by TAFEP,” he said.

“Philosophically, writing TAFEP guidelines into the law is a major move. It signals that we do not tolerate discrimination at workplaces. But in practice, we hope to operate in a similar way as today, except better. We should still resolve workplace disputes informally and amicably, if at all possible. The legal redress should be a last recourse.”

PM Lee opined that the existence of workplace discrimination law would help “parties to work harder to settle the dispute through conciliation and mediation”.

Minister Tan See Leng who was just elected into Parliament in the General Election 2020 take the same position as PM Lee, where he commented that laws alone do not guarantee better employment outcomes.

In the adjournment motion filed by three People’s Action Party Members of Parliament, Dr Tan said:

We must therefore carefully study our options, weigh the costs and benefits, and determine what would work best in Singapore’s interest and in the Singaporean context. On the one hand, legislation will provide a clear premise to publicise the names of companies found to have breached the law.

On the other hand, we should be mindful of unintended consequences. For example, if not properly designed, the legal framework could become overly onerous and inadvertently deter employers from setting up shop here and hiring the very groups that we seek to protect.

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