New rules: Non-work-related activities not mandatory

Singapore to update workplace guidelines to boost 'sensitivity' at the workplace

New rules: Non-work-related activities not mandatory

Employees across Singapore should not be required nor pressured to attend events or programmes that are not related to work, according to one of the upcoming additions to the country's workplace guidelines aimed at enhancing "sensitivity."

Singapore's Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices (TGFEP) will make these additions in mid-February, as the tripartite partners acknowledged that employers and employees are carrying out activities to support various causes.

"Often, these activities are held in support of causes unrelated to the primary business of the employer, or the job that employees are hired to do," said the partners, which includes the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), the National Trades Union Congress, and the Singapore National Employers Federation.

Other rules being introduced

In addition to not requiring employees attend non-work-related events, the incoming guidelines also state that:

  • Employers should be sensitive to the diverse cultures, values, and beliefs of their employees when developing, promoting, or implementing events, programmes, and policies that are not related to work.
  • Support for any cause should not lead to bullying, harassment, or ostracism at the workplace in any circumstances. Employers should provide employees with a safe environment to raise their concerns, including through a proper grievance handling process.
  • Employees should be assessed for performance, promotion, and related areas based only on work-related requirements, as stipulated in the Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices.
  • Employers should continue to demonstrate and communicate the importance of an inclusive and harmonious workplace.

"The tripartite partners recognise the importance of proactively preserving a harmonious workplace where employers and employees can thrive, regardless of their values and beliefs," the partners said in a statement published on MOM's website.

"Employers are expected to abide by the principles of fair employment practices set out in the TGFEP, including these additional guidelines."

Employees can report cases of TGFEP non-compliance to the website of the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP), which will look into the reports and refer them to MOM.

The ministry may curtail work pass privileges of non-compliant employers, according to the statement.

Impact of social movements

The updates come after Member of Parliament Fahmi Aliman last year called for guidelines to ensure that employees are not forced to support causes related to diversity and inclusion, The Business Times reported.

According to the report, Aliman said employees should be treated fairly based on merit and not face discrimination for non-job-related characteristics, such as faith and identity.

It also comes amid social movements, such as #MeToo, Times Up, and Black Lives Matter, impacting workplaces across the world. Employers, including Starbucks, have rolled out policies addressing the changes brought about by these causes. In Canada, some retailers in 2019 shuttered operations to help raise awareness on climate change.

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