- POSTED: 23 Sep 2013 13:00
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The Manpower Ministry on Monday announced new rules that require employers to consider Singaporeans fairly, before hiring skilled professional foreigners.
SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Manpower on Monday announced new rules that require employers to consider Singaporeans fairly before hiring skilled professional foreigners.
The new Fair Consideration Framework will affect employers who apply for Employment Passes (EP), the work passes for foreign professionals working in managerial, executive or specialised jobs.
However, the ministry stressed that the rules are not meant to be a "Hire Singaporean First" policy but about fairness in hiring.
About half of all complaints recorded by the Tripartite Alliance of Fair Employment Practices (TAFEP) have to do with nationality-based discrimination. Many of them involve professionals, managers and executives (PMEs).
The ministry said it does not have a problem with most firms in Singapore, but a handful of them clearly need to improve their hiring process.
Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin said: "It's not particular to a specific sector. In fact, I would say it straddles across different nationalities. Does it happen? I am quite sure it does.
"I would say that in our conversations, companies have also acknowledged that some of them weren't really paying a lot of attention to the way they hire."
In drafting the rules, the ministry was mindful they are not too onerous to employers. The rules though do set out clear expectations for companies.
Under the new rules, firms making new Employment Pass applications must advertise the job vacancy in a new jobs bank, administered by the Singapore Workforce and Development Agency (WDA), for at least 14 days.
The advertisement must be open to Singaporeans. It should include information such as job title, salary range and skills required. Employers can concurrently advertise on other platforms or job portals.
Employers are encouraged to keep records of their interview process as proof that they have done due diligence in trying to look for a Singaporean worker.
If an Employment Pass is still needed, the employer will have to make a statutory declaration that an ad with the jobs bank has been placed.
The ministry and other government agencies will also identify firms which have a disproportionately low level of Singaporean PMEs or have had repeated complaints of nationality-based discrimination.
These firms will be asked to provide the ministry with information, such as organisation charts with nationality information, recruitment processes and staff grievance handling procedures.
If firms are not responsive towards improving their recruitment and training processes, the ministry may impose additional requirements.
They include attesting that the firm will not displace any similarly employed Singaporean within 60 days before or after applying for an Employment Pass.
Recalcitrant firms may have their work pass privileges curtailed.
Selected firms under additional scrutiny will be notified by the first quarter of next year.
The new jobs bank will go online by mid 2014.
By August next year, all employers submitting new Employment Pass applications must comply with the advertisement requirements.
Mr Tan said: "Singapore needs to remain open and competitive. I think many Singaporeans understand that primarily because that's the only way we can generate good jobs and opportunities for our people.
"That should continue but being open and competitive does not mean it should not be compatible with being progressive and fair work practices, workplaces, as well as hiring practices."
Mr Tan added the new rules are not meant to further moderate the number of foreigners working in Singapore.
He said: "As you are aware, we are tightening the labour inflows through a range of various measures.
"The FCF (Fair Consideration Framework) is really about addressing fair hiring practices at the workplace.
"We believe that this is an important and progressive step going forward, which many Singaporeans are looking forward too.
"I would say many employers support it as well."
The ministry is also hoping that companies in Singapore will use the new jobs bank to post all other job vacancies.
Mr Tan said the jobs bank will be valuable to employees and employers.
"In a tight labour market, you do still have people who perhaps still may not be able to find jobs that they want.
"But, having a jobs bank will allow that to happen. In fact, it will (also) benefit employers.
"Many employers share with us that it makes a lot more sense to hire a Singaporean. Having a core Singaporean workforce is a lot more stable, and from a cost perspective as well, because they don't need to incur all the expatriate packages.
"But because the labour market is tight and we have very low unemployment, it may be sometimes difficult to ferret out and find where those Singaporeans are.
"Having the jobs bank, I think, would be an important step.
"For the long term, I believe our jobs bank will also be important from a data analysis perspective, because it helps us better understand what the job market is like, how it is evolving and tailor some of our needs, some of our training requirements.
"So I think there is a lot of potential there as well."
Small firms with 25 or fewer employees and jobs which pay a fixed monthly salary of $12,000 or more will not be subjected to the advertising requirement.
Separately, from January, the qualifying salary for new EP applications will be raised from $3,000 to $3,300.
The ministry said this is in line with rising salaries. It had been two years since the last adjustment to the Employment Pass.
Firms will be given some lead time to transit for their existing pool of Employment Pass holders.
Existing EP holders whose passes expire before January will receive a one-time renewal based on the existing EP criteria.
Those whose passes expire between 1 January and 30 June 2014 will receive a one-time renewal of up to one year based on the existing EP criteria.
After 30 June 2014, all existing EP holders will have to meet the new criteria.
The new rules come after a consultation process of about six months involving Singaporeans and key stakeholders such as the labour movement and employer groups.
The Manpower Ministry also made study trips to places such as Hong Kong, the US and and Canada.
Most of these jurisdictions have some form of employment requirement for companies seeking to hire foreigners.