Stiffer penalties for employers with discriminatory hiring practices, including debarment of work pass renewal

SINGAPORE (The Straits Times/ANN) - Companies given a 24-month ban will not be allowed to renew up to all of the firm’s work passes or to hire new foreign workers in that period, which means they will need to hire locals to continue operations. 

Employers now face stiffer penalties for discriminatory hiring practices and could be prosecuted in court if they make false declarations on fair hiring consideration, following changes to the Fair Consideration Framework (FCF).

Under the updated framework, employers found guilty of workplace discrimination will not be able to renew work passes for existing employees during the period of debarment. In the past, debarment mostly applied only to new work pass applications.

In addition, these errant employers will not be able to apply for new work passes for at least 12 months –  up from the minimum of six months previously. The debarment period can extend  to 24 months for the “most egregious cases”, said Manpower Minister Josephine Teo. 

“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,” she added.

Mrs Teo said that as most work passes are valid for two to three years, debarment for a 12-month period means that around a third to half of a company’s foreign workforce cannot be renewed or replaced. 

Companies given a 24-month ban will not be allowed to renew up to all of the firm’s work passes or to hire new foreign workers in that period, which means they will need to hire locals to continue operations. 

These changes, which took effect earlier this month, were announced by Manpower Minister Josephine Teo on Tuesday (Jan 14) at the graduation ceremony for participants in the Professional Conversion Programme (PCP) for Salesforce Platform Professionals.

Penalties have been raised for all discrimination cases, such as against nationality, age, gender and race.

Mrs Teo said that while there has been a decrease in discriminatory hiring practices, some employers have failed to adapt, and penalties have been stepped up to further deter and stamp out such practices.

"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," she added.

On Dec 31, Mrs Teo mentioned in a Facebook post that the FCF updates would provide "stronger deterrence for discrimination against Singaporeans when hiring".

In addition, employers and key personnel who make false declarations that they have considered all candidates fairly will also now be prosecuted in court.

Those found guilty of false declaration under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act may be jailed for up to two years, fined up to $20,000, or both.

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

The FCF mandates that companies advertise openings for jobs paying below $15,000 a month on the national Jobs Bank for at least 14 days before applying for an Employment Pass for a foreigner.

A watch list for employers with indications of discriminatory hiring practices was introduced in 2016.

Instances of workplace discrimination, such as discriminatory job advertisements or HR practices, can be reported to the Tripartite Alliance for Fair & Progressive Employment Practices.

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