Names of employers suspected of discriminatory hiring practices should be released: NTUC's Patrick Tay

Names of employers suspected of discriminatory hiring practices should be released: NTUC's Patrick Tay

Office workers at Raffles Place in Singapore
Office workers at Raffles Place in Singapore. (File photo: Marcus Mark Ramos)

SINGAPORE: The names of companies that are potentially biased in their hiring processes should be released, said a union leader, after the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said that 47 firms have been placed on its Fair Consideration Framework (FCF) watchlist.

On Wednesday (Aug 5), MOM released a statement saying that 47 employers had been placed on its watchlist of companies believed to have discriminatory hiring practices. The ministry did not name the companies.

Most of them are from financial and professional services sectors, while the remaining come from a variety of sectors including those in administrative and support services, manufacturing and education firms as well.

In a statement on Friday, the National Trades Union Congress’ assistant secretary-general Patrick Tay said that the names of those on the watchlist should be disclosed to weed out their biased recruitment practices early on. 

“Especially where the employer is recalcitrant or uncooperative, publishing their names may be a good deterrent to employers who want to flout the rules,” he said.

Publishing the names of errant employers will also leave jobseekers “better informed”, he added.

The 47 companies collectively hire about 2,000 employment pass holders and more than 2,800 local professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs), according to MOM.

READ: Harsher penalties for companies whose hiring practices discriminate against Singaporeans

Their workforce profiles indicate that they may have discriminatory hiring practices, and authorities will “closely” scrutinise their Employment Pass applications, the ministry said. 

Those who are recalcitrant or uncooperative will have their work pass privileges cut back.

Another 240 firms were identified through data analytics for possible pre-selection of foreigners or not adhering to the spirit of the job advertising requirement under the framework, and will be further investigated. 

Mr Tay, who is also a Member of Parliament-elect, listed other measures the Government could take to curb unfair hiring practices.

READ: Commentary: Tip of the iceberg, when ‘disguised PMEs’ don’t get overtime pay and fair treatment

These include applying a more stringent criteria to intra-corporate transfer applications and stiffer penalties on companies that “treat the FCF as mere window dressing or find ways to circumvent the requirements”.

Currently, employers who make Employment Pass applications must first advertise on the official jobs portal MyCareersFuture.sg and meet the job listing requirements. 

This advertising condition is not required for jobs filled by the intra-corporate transfer candidates. 

However, these employment pass applicants will first have to match the definition laid out in the World Trade Organization’s General Agreement on Trade in Services of what an intra-corporate transferee is. 

The transfer employee must have also worked for the company outside Singapore for at least one year, and his term will be limited to up to five years. 

Referring to the current employment climate, Mr Tay said that Singaporean professionals need to be better protected and considered fairly for job opportunities.

“At the end of the day, employers must recognise that foreign workers play a complementary role to our local workforce, and where foreign workers are hired, there must be real knowledge and skills transfer to Singaporeans,” he said. 

When asked why it did not publish the names of the 47 companies, MOM said that the names of firms that are found guilty of discriminatory hiring practices will be publicised, citing how it released the names of five employers penalised for age-related discrimination in March.

READ: Too old for the job? 5 employers penalised by MOM for age-related discriminatory hiring

The latest employers added to the watchlist are still being monitored. 

Mr Tay acknowledged that the ministry has improved its administrative penalties and sanctions against errant employers, and alluded to the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices as well, which was set up in 2007 to promote fair employment conduct. 

He said that the labour movement “will continue to lobby this topic and raise awareness on some of these issues to better protect our Singaporean PMEs (Professionals, Managers, Executives)”. 

The FCF watchlist was introduced in 2016 to "proactively identify" employers suspected of having discriminatory hiring practices, according to MOM. This is indicated by an exceptionally high share of foreign PMETs compared to industry peers, or a high concentration of PMETs from a single nationality.

More than 1,200 employers have been scrutinised under the framework since 2016. In all, 3,200 Employment Pass applications have been rejected or withheld by MOM, or withdrawn by employers.

Over the same time period, employers on the watchlist have hired more than 4,800 Singaporean PMETs, said MOM.

Source: CNA/rp(nc)

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