SINGAPORE: A new wage offset scheme, alongside enhancements to an existing training grant, will be introduced to enhance the employment of persons with disabilities (PWDs), said Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad on Tuesday (Mar 3).
First announced by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat during the Budget statement last month, the new Enabling Employment Credit (EEC) will be available from 2021 to 2025 at a cost of about S$31 million a year.
It is set to replace two existing wage offset schemes – the Special Employment Credit and Additional Special Employment Credit schemes – that are due to expire at the end of this year.
Sharing more details about the EEC during his ministry’s Committee of Supply debate in Parliament, Mr Zaqy said the new scheme will provide “stronger support” to employers and is set to cover four in five of the PWDs employed now.
Given to employers that hire Singaporeans with disabilities earning below S$4,000 a month, the EEC provides a wage offset of up to 20 per cent of the employee’s monthly income. This is capped at a maximum of S$400 a month.
Those hiring PWDs who have not been working for at least six months will receive an additional 10 per cent wage offset for the first 6 months of employment, Mr Zaqy said. This is capped at S$200 a month.
A review of the EEC will be done after two years, with adjustments to be made if necessary. This is to ensure that the scheme remains helpful for those with disabilities to find and remain in employment, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said in a separate release.
ENHANCED OPEN DOOR PROGRAMME TRAINING GRANT
Mr Zaqy on Tuesday also announced the enhancement of the Open Door Programme (ODP) training grant.
Administered by SG Enable, the ODP is a special scheme under the Adapt & Grow initiative to help PWDs enter suitable jobs and better integrate into the workplace. It provides support for job placement, training and cost of job re-design.
The boost to the training grant aims to provide more funding support to employers who send their PWD employees for training, as well as PWDs who seek to upgrade themselves, said Mr Zaqy, who added that training and job re-design are key to helping those with disabilities stay employable.
Course fee subsidies will be raised from 90 per cent to 95 per cent for eligible training courses curated by SG Enable, while training allowance for both unemployed and employed PWDs will go up to S$6 per hour.
A training commitment award of S$100 for each completed eligible training course will also be introduced, he said.
Mr Zaqy noted that current programmes have contributed to improving employment rates among people with disabilities.
Three in 10 PWDs aged between 15 and 64 are employed, he said.
Between 2016 and 2019, more than 2,000 people with disabilities found new jobs through the Adapt & Grow initiative.
A job redesign guide was also launched by SG Enable in collaboration with MOM last year to help firms be more inclusive, he added.
“As more PWDs become economically active, the issues of financial independence, whether they enjoy fair salaries and benefits as other employees and their rights at work … will become more important,” he said.
“MOM will closely monitor workplace practices and encourage progressive practices for PWDs, just as it does for other workers.”
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Under the Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices, for instance, employers are expected to treat their workers with disabilities fairly, including only asking for information that is relevant to the job roles and paying them fairly.
Lower-income PWDs also receive additional support through the Workfare Income Supplements (WIS), with more than 6,300 receiving these payouts amounting to S$6.7 million last year.
Ultimately, Mr Zaqy noted that the "best way" to safeguard the interests of people with disabilities is to ensure that they have good job opportunities to choose from.
“This means more employers hiring PWDs and giving them opportunities for career growth," he said.
"It also means more Singaporeans welcoming PWDs as colleagues in the workplace."