‘Weed out the minority’: Josephine Teo announces MOM crackdown on workplace discrimination with heavier punishments

After updates to the Fair Consideration Framework (FCF), employers found guilty of discrimination will be barred from hiring new foreign workers for up to 24 months.

Singapore employers face harsher punishments for hiring discriminations now, after Minister for Manpower Josephine Teo announced updates to the Fair Consideration Framework (FCF) on Tuesday (Jan 14).

Under the new framework, employers found guilty of workplace discrimination will be unable to hire new foreign workers for 12 months – up from the previous six-month debarment.

The “most egregious cases” will face a debarment period of up to 24 months, Teo added.

She added that the debarment is now extended to the renewal of existing work passes too. Previously, it mostly applied to the application of new work passes.

The minister said that as most work passes are valid for two to three years, a 12-month debarment would mean that a third to half of the work passes of a company’s foreign employees, cannot be renewed or replaced.

No work passes can be renewed or replaced for companies facing a 24-month debarment, and the firm cannot hire new foreign workers during the period. The firm would have no choice but to hire local workers to continue operations.

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) will also prosecute employers who make false declarations on fair consideration, albeit at an individual-level of accountability under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act.

Those convicted may be jailed for up to two years, fined up to S$20,000, or both.

Teo said: “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.”

The penalties apply across the board for all forms of discrimination, such as on the basis of age, race, nationality, and mental health condition.

Teo added that while fair employment norms have become more widespread, some employers have failed to adapt, 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”.

First company to be charged

On Tuesday, Ti2 Logistics became the first firm to be charged under the new FCF framework.

Investigations revealed that the company falsely declared that it had interviewed two Singaporean applicants and considered local candidates fairly, for a business development manager position.

However, Ti2 Logistics had already pre-selected a Employment Pass applicant and had “no intention to interview any local candidates”.

According to The Straits Times (ST), MOM has debarred Ti2 Logistics from hiring new foreign workers and renewing existing work passes for 24 months.

Framework applies to all companies in Singapore

ST reported that the changes announced on Tuesday are the first updates to the penalty framework since it was introduced in 2014.

MOM says on its website that the Fair Consideration Framework sets out expectations for companies to consider Singaporeans fairly.

Under the rules, companies must advertise professional, managerial and executive posts for at least 14 calendar days before applying for an Employment Pass (EP) for a foreigner.

In a Facebook post on Dec 31, Teo had written: “For jobseekers, fairness is when employers hire on merit…when a person is the best candidate, gender, age, race, physical or past medical conditions should not be barriers.”

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