SINGAPORE: About 1,000 companies have been placed on the Fair Consideration Framework (FCF) Watchlist after being suspected of discriminatory hiring practices, Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said in Parliament.
Some of these are employers with an exceptionally high share of foreign professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) compared to their industry peers, or high concentrations of single nationalities, she explained in her Committee of Supply speech on Tuesday (Mar 3).
These firms will have their Employment Pass (EP) applications scrutinised or withheld, the minister said.
To date, a total of 3,000 EP applications have been rejected or withheld by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), or withdrawn by employers. Over the same period, firms under the FCF have hired more than 4,400 Singaporean PMETs, she told Parliament.
Besides those on the list, the ministry has also reached out to another 350 employers whose workforce profiles are “cause for concern”, and they have taken steps to "strengthen local hiring", Mrs Teo said.
“But it also means that having served notice to these employers, MOM will not hesitate to put them on the FCF Watchlist if their workforce profiles deteriorate," she added.
HIGHER SALARY THRESHOLD
Under the FCF, which was introduced in August 2014, employers are required to advertise openings on MyCareersFuture.sg before submitting their EP applications.
This is to ensure fair hiring and guard against job openings being restricted to "closed circles of friends", said Ms Teo.
Job positions with salaries of S$15,000 and above are currently exempted from the FCF job advertising requirement.
This threshold was last updated in July 2018. From May 1, MOM will expand the advertising requirement to include positions paying up to $20,000.
Positions that are more senior remain exempted as they are more likely to be market-sensitive, said Mrs Teo.
MORE FIRMS PENALISED UNDER NEW FRAMEWORK
Mrs Teo gave an update on the number of companies penalised under the revised FCF.
Since January this year, firms found to discriminate by age, gender, nationality or mental health condition face stiffer penalties.
Employers that violate the Tripartite Guidelines on fair employment practices will be barred from hiring new foreign workers or renewing existing ones for a minimum of 12 months and a maximum of 24 months - up from the minimum debarment period of six months.
Under the amended penalty framework, 23 employers have been sanctioned, she said.
Mrs Teo cited an example of a 51-year-old applying to be a receptionist who was told that she was "too old".
MOM discovered that the firm had a policy where only candidates younger than 45, female and Chinese would be invited for interviews.
"We will also hold culpable key decision makers responsible, whether it is the CEO, Chief HR Officer, or line managers. We are prepared to name them publicly, and revoke their work passes if they are foreigners," she added.
She noted that some people feel the penalties are "still not enough", and said a 24-month debarment is "actually quite painful".
“Most of the work passes will expire during this period, but none can be renewed. Neither can the employer hire new foreign workers,” she added.
“In other words, these employers would need to hire more locals if they want to continue their operations in Singapore.”
She also reiterated that MOM will prosecute employers and key personnel who make false declarations on fair consideration.