Ageism revealed as the most rampant form of bias at work

HRD speaks to the APAC vice president of HR at ADP to get insights

Ageism revealed as the most rampant form of bias at work

Workplace discrimination was hotly debated in Singapore this year and a new study has revealed the true extent of it all.

ADP found that ageism was the most common form of bias here, with nearly one in five professionals claiming they’ve experienced it at work.

This was closely followed by discrimination on the grounds of background, and lastly racial or nationality bias.

The study found that nearly half (45%) of Singaporeans have experienced some form of discrimination at work. Ageism was also slightly more rampant in Singapore compared with the rest of Asia.

“We have a problem with age discrimination in the workplace,” Yvonne Teo, vice president – HR, APAC at ADP, told HRD.

“While the issue certainly isn’t unique to Singapore, I am sure many will be surprised at just how common an experience it is.”

Read more: Ageism greatest barrier in Singapore workplaces

Is HR doing enough to tackle discrimination?
Many instances of workplace bias were brought to light this year, with leaders like Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and President Halimah Yacob urging employers to simply do better.

A new law was also put in place for recruiters to ensure fair hiring, besides tougher penalties for errant employers, including jail time.

The government also introduced initiatives like the Jobs Growth Incentive, which offers additional wage support for employers who practised inclusive hiring.

Read more: Employers to receive payouts for hiring ex-offenders

Beyond the government-led efforts, the authorities have also encouraged employees to report cases of discrimination either to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) or TAFEP.

TAFEP is the main body in Singapore that investigates and mediates cases of bias, including age, gender, race, religion, language, marital status and family responsibility, disability, and mental health.

Despite this, ADP’s study found that Singaporeans are still unsure what to do if they experienced discrimination at work.

Three in five employees said they’re unaware who to contact. What’s worse, only one in three said they feel comfortable raising a claim against bias.

Additionally, one in five employees said they don’t feel their company followed good HR practices with regards to discrimination prevention.

Read more: There’s been a 42% rise in workplace harassment complaints

What can leaders do?
“Our data shows that the incidence of age discrimination is high, and the processes and protocols to address it are lacking,” Teo said.

This is worrying, especially when discrimination prevention and resolution is often thought to be HR’s domain. Teo, however, believes that besides HR, business owners and managers must educate themselves on anti-discrimination laws ‘as a minimum’.

“Not only is discrimination illegal, but employers have a duty of care to protect their teams from harassment or unfair treatment at work,” she said.

“Secondly, every workplace should have established procedures relating to discrimination and harassment, which all staff are bound by.

“A clear framework to live by and processes to report instances of discrimination is the best way to protect both your business and your workers.”

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