Employers risk 'stiffer penalties' for unfair hiring

If found guilty, bosses in Singapore can expect up to two years in jail, said the Ministry of Manpower

Employers risk 'stiffer penalties' for unfair hiring

Employers in Singapore now face stiffer penalties for unfair hiring practices, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) revealed on Tuesday.

The updated Fair Consideration Framework ramps up efforts against employers who blatantly favour hiring foreigners over locals, and treat the authority’s requirements as a “paper exercise”, said Minister Josephine Teo.

Teo had ushered in 2020 with a hint on MOM’s reviewed policy against discrimination.

READ MORE: MOM to ramp up efforts against unfair hiring

Under the updated framework, employers found guilty:

  • will not be able to renew work passes for existing employees during the period of debarment
  • will not be able to apply for new work passes for at least 12 months — up from the minimum of six months
  • the debarment period can extend to 24 months for the “most egregious cases”
  • will now be prosecuted in court and face up to two years in jail for false declarations

The changes took effect earlier this month, according to The Straits Times. Tuesday (14 January) saw the first ever legal charge made against an errant employer over a false declaration for an employment pass application.

Teo explained that cases where action has been taken include those where employers had pre-selected foreigners for job positions and went through the motions of advertising the role.

Some have even omitted critical job requirements so there were no suitable applicants, while others have made false declarations to the ministry that they considered local candidates fairly when they did not.

She noted that most employers have adapted to the framework since its introduction in 2014, but the stricter updates aim to “weed out the minority”.

Above all, she reminded that employers must practise “fair consideration” when recruiting and hire on merit. The minister pointed out that other forms of bias, like age and gender, are just as unacceptable.

As for the target on discrimination against locals, she believes it’s important for Singapore to stay open and help businesses put together “the best possible team” to compete on the world stage, while regulating the balance of foreigners and locals.

“In places where the workforce is multinational, like Singapore, perceptions of discrimination against locals are particularly toxic,” Teo said.

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