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Processes already in place to verify qualifications of Employment Pass applicants, companies say

For companies that do not verify, the new requirement could lengthen the process of applying for an Employment Pass by more than 18 days, an HR expert says.

Processes already in place to verify qualifications of Employment Pass applicants, companies say

People walking in the central business district in Singapore on Nov 16, 2022. (File photo: CNA/Hanidah Amin)

SINGAPORE: Many firms in Singapore already verify the educational qualifications of foreigners hired on Employment Passes (EPs), companies and human resource experts told CNA.

For such companies, not much will change when a new requirement by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) to get third-party verification proof takes effect in September.

The ministry announced last week that companies will have to verify the educational qualifications of EP applicants who have diploma-level certification or higher. Currently, verification proof only has to be submitted if the candidate’s educational qualification is not from an accredited institution.

According to background screening companies, the verification process typically involves contacting the educational institution or authorised agent to confirm that the qualification is genuine.

One company, eeCheck, said on its website that if the institution has closed down, it will explore other options, including contacting the local education bureau.

PRE-EMPLOYMENT CHECKS INCLUDE QUALIFICATIONS: COMPANIES

Multinational companies in Singapore told CNA that their existing procedures include pre-employment checks, including on educational qualifications.

“We have a longstanding practice of conducting screening and verification for successful applicants in Singapore,” an ExxonMobil spokesperson said, adding that it will comply with any new measures the Government introduces for a “robust hiring process”.

Ms Jacinta Low, senior vice-president of group human resources at OCBC, said: “As part of our hiring process, we currently have in place third-party verification of all candidates’ educational qualifications, regardless of nationality or employment status.”

Some smaller companies also conduct background checks. Private market exchange ADDX, which has about 130 full-time employees, already verifies its candidates' employment history but will have to start screening educational qualifications when the new requirement kicks in.

Inmoo Hwang, the firm’s chief operating officer, said the cost of doing so will be marginal.

“The lengths of time required for both types of checks are also similar, which means they can be conducted concurrently,” he said. “We therefore do not expect any major changes to our hiring process.”

VERIFICATION COULD LENGTHEN APPLICATION PROCESS 

Job agency Randstad said most companies conduct independent and random background checks on candidates.

“However, not all companies will follow through for every single application, especially if the individual is already based and working in Singapore or has a long experience working in various renowned firms in global financial and business hubs,” said Ms Jaya Dass, Randstad's managing director of Asia-Pacific permanent recruitment. 

Ms Annie Yap, founder of HR solutions firm AYP Group, said the verification of qualifications is an “important aspect of pre-employment screening because it helps to ensure that candidates possess the qualifications they claim to have”.

That said, for companies that do not already obtain third-party verification of educational qualifications, the upcoming requirement could lengthen the process of applying for an EP, said Ms Ang Geok Khim, senior partner at Triton AI Consulting.

In her experience, it can take more than 18 days for the verification to be completed. She also gave an example of an older client who did not keep a copy of his educational certificate and could not request a replacement without flying back to the country where he studied previously.

“It’s been two months – we’re still unable to get a verification cert,” she said. “These are the challenges that we have, but then we understand that there is a reason for doing it.

“At the end of the day, when I apply for an EP, I want to make sure that the person I’m bringing to Singapore is really able to contribute to the workforce,” she said.

FLEXIBILITY UNDER COMPASS

The Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (ASME) pointed out that not every EP application will need verification proof for educational qualifications.

The verification will be enforced through a new points system – the Complementarity Assessment Framework (COMPASS) – that starts in September. EP applications will be assessed under four attributes and two bonus criteria, with up to 20 points for most categories.

Each application needs 40 points to pass, but that can be earned from the other attributes – salary, nationality diversity in the company and the firm’s support for local employment.

Only those that want to score points under the qualifications criteria will need to provide verification proof. 

“Companies would have the flexibility to apply a suitable combination of foundational and bonus criteria to support their EP applications,” said Mr Albert Tsui, executive director of the Singapore Business Federation’s advocacy and policy division.

Mr Ang Yuit, vice-president of ASME, said it is a “good step in the right direction” because companies have the option of earning points from other attributes. For those that want to earn points under qualifications, the additional cost seems reasonable, he added.

“Broadly, SMEs' challenges in terms of hiring are in the area of work permits and S-Pass  while EPs are needed in certain cases, I think the current proposed process has a good balance."

EPs are generally given to professionals, managers, engineers and technicians. For new applications, the minimum qualifying salary is S$5,000.

TranZplus Engineering chief executive Nelson Lim said his company has one EP holder, a consultant adviser who has many years of experience but may not be highly educated.

Mr Lim said it is “really good” that employers do not need to submit verification if points are not needed under qualifications.

“SMEs like us, we engage (workers) based on experience, it might not necessarily be education,” he said.

Source: CNA/an(cy)

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