At a Glance
- Based on recent updates to the regulatory framework that assigns penalties for workplace violations, employers with foreign workers in Singapore found guilty of workplace discrimination now face stricter penalties, including longer bans of up to 24 months on work pass and renewal sponsorship during the period of the ban.
- Notably, this includes employers found not to have complied with the requirement to consider Singaporean applicants fairly, especially when it comes to advertising requirements for certain job openings.
- In just the last month, the Ministry of Manpower has penalized five companies under the new framework, of which four were found to have pre-selected an Employment Pass applicant or had failed to fairly consider local applicants.
Effective January 1, 2020, employers with foreign workers in Singapore found guilty of workplace discrimination (which covers discriminatory actions based on nationality, age, gender and race), now face stricter penalties and higher fines. Notably, this includes employers that do not comply with the requirement to advertise positions paying below SGD 15,000 per month (approximately USD 11,135.86) on the national Jobs Bank for at least 14 days before applying for an Employment Pass.
A closer look
- Longer Employment Pass bars and renewal bar. Employers found guilty of workplace discrimination will not be allowed to obtain new work passes for 12 months up to 24 months (up from the previous limit of up to six months), and will not be allowed to renew a work pass during the penalty period (where in the past, renewals were not barred). Notably, employers must make accurate, complete and truthful declarations to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) in their work pass applications regarding the recruitment process and the fair consideration of Singaporean applicants before applying for an Employment Pass.
- Prosecution. 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 SGD 20,000 (USD 14,856.63), or both.
Employers in Singapore with foreign workers should ensure they strictly comply with the labor market testing requirements.
For all assignments, including for temporary roles, employers should ensure that local applicants are fairly considered for the role before approving the foreign employee's relocation as otherwise the MOM may deem that the Employment Pass applicant has been pre-selected.
Companies in Singapore can partner with government agencies such as Workforce Singapore to access a larger pool of local talent, including those changing careers under the Professional Conversion Programme (PCP), designed for professionals, managers and executives and technicians (PMETs).
- Fair employment framework update history. This change is based on recent updates to the Fair Consideration Framework (FCF), a regulation introduced in 2014 to reduce hiring and workplace discrimination in Singapore.
- Penalties already in effect. In just the last month, the MOM has used its data and complaint process to already have identified and penalized five companies under the updated framework, of which four were found to have not honestly undertaken the labor market test process and instead to have pre-selected an Employment Pass applicant or had failed to fairly consider local applicants.
- Employer watchlist. Since 2016, the MOM developed a watchlist for employers who may not have met FCF requirements, including those the MOM determined to have too many foreign nationals in its workforce. Employers on the watchlist must work with the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP), a government committee that helps employers to improve their record of recruiting and promoting Singaporeans and to comply with laws and policies to promote the adoption of fair, responsible and merit-based employment practices.
- In line with other related policies. These updates are in line with other related policies recently implemented in Singapore, including stricter documentary requirements for initial and renewal Employment Pass, S Pass and Training Employment Pass applicants implemented in October 2019, and changes to reduce the quotas for S Pass and Work Permit holders in the services sector that are taking effect over the next two years.
As Singapore's workforce becomes increasingly highly educated, companies are expected to fairly consider local applicants to ensure they are provided equal opportunities during the recruitment process and during their careers. The government is likely to keep progressing this goal to maintain the competitiveness of Singapore's local workforce.
Fragomen will report on relevant related policy changes.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.