Are employees with disabilities neglected in Singapore?

Is enough being done to protect their rights in the workplace?

Are employees with disabilities neglected in Singapore?

While there are no specific regulations protecting employees with disabilities in Singapore, those who feel discriminated against have been encouraged to reach out to the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP) for mediation or counsel.

Over the years, TAFEP has observed that some employers still misunderstand the needs of persons with disabilities, or wrongly conclude they are unable to perform certain tasks.

This could impact employees at various stages, including recruitment and career pathways, which is why TAFEP encourages employers, their managers and society generally “to cultivate the correct mindset with respect to disability”.

Read more: Inclusivity: How to go beyond gender diversity

This lack of awareness remains a concerning issue in Singapore, especially amidst the COVID-19 crisis when job insecurity and financial instability affects every individual. In a Facebook post, President Halimah Yacob said that after speaking with parents of persons with disabilities, the lack of job opportunities and the worry over how their children will sustain themselves after they were gone were “lifelong concerns”.

This is why she urged everyone to look at it as a national issue, instead of something for the welfare or social service organisations to deal with. She also shared her fear that the group of employees may be facing increasing neglect when it comes to formal D&I strategies.

“Persons with disabilities will benefit much more if they are mainstreamed in our job creation and job placement efforts, instead of being treated separately,” she said in a Facebook post.

Read more: COVID-19: President urges job support for people with disabilities

In terms of legal protections, Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said in parliament that people with disabilities are entitled to the same protections, rights and obligations under the city-state’s current labour law – “as any other individual”.

This means that employers must abide by fair and merit-based employment practices as outlined in prevailing tripartite guidelines as well on protection from workplace discrimination and unfair dismissal. Those found guilty of biased practices will be liable for prosecution.

 “Employers who have breached these obligations face firm enforcement action by MOM and will have their work pass privileges curtailed,” Teo said.

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