Bosses favouring foreigners still top employment grouse

BY JOANNA SEOW, Straits Times 29 April 2014

COMPLAINTS about preferential treatment of foreigners remain the No. 1 gripe Singaporeans have over unfair employment practices, for the third year running.

They made up more than half of the 475 grievances – involving 295 employers – lodged last year with the national anti-discrimination watchdog.

The Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (Tafep) did not reveal an exact breakdown in its annual review released yesterday.

It said that one in five of the complaints handled was about age, while one in six was to do with issues of language or race.

Overall, it saw 57 per cent more complaints than the 303 dealt with in 2012. In that year, about half were about nationality discrimination.

The volume of inquiries and feedback also rose, with many employers seeking advice on the acceptable requirements for their job advertisements.

Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin called on employers of all sizes to implement good employment practices, in his speech yesterday at the Tafep Exemplary Employer Award ceremony.

“Putting in place progressive employment practices should not be treated as an after-thought,” he said.

“It is not an extra-curricular activity, it is not to be run by the HR department, it is something that everyone needs to embrace and do fully, not just in their spare time,” he added, speaking to about 300 business managers and staff at the Pan Pacific Singapore hotel.

More companies were lauded for their fair employment practices this year, and eight won overall awards. The number of submissions for the biennial award has risen 30 per cent since 2012.

More smaller firms participated as well – there were 36 entries from small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) this year, compared with 15 two years ago.

One such business that picked up a special mention award was five-year-old events company Adrenalin Group.

A fifth of the social enterprise’s 30 full-time staff have some form of sensory, mental or physical disability. They are given an additional allowance of around $300 a year to help with the cost of items such as wheelchair repairs and hearing aids.

In the past year, the company has introduced health insurance for staff, as well as a $500 travel incentive “for them to see the world and recharge”, said managing director Richardo Chua.

“SMEs are small and flexible enough to look at the needs and resources of the company to implement (such practices) over time… as your business gets stronger.”

Holiday Inn Singapore Atrium hotel also won one of seven special mention awards, as well as an overall award.

Some 10 per cent of its 280 staff are on a Persons With Differences programme, which teams them up with a buddy during their integration programme.

Before someone with disabilities starts work at the hotel, their families are also invited to recce the workplace.

Mr Thng Kai Bin, 22, who has a mild intellectual disability, was initially employed by the hotel last July to do cleaning. But he was given a new role as a doorman this year, with a pay rise of nearly 30 per cent.

“My colleague Ayub taught me how to help the guests get a taxi, how to load luggage,” he said of his buddy.

Mr Thng said he enjoys the new job scope more. “I can talk to guests more often. I hope to stay here as long as I can.”

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