'Not litigious': Singapore's upcoming workplace fairness law to emphasise mediation

'Strengthening our framework for workplace fairness should be done with an eye on maintaining a workplace culture'

'Not litigious': Singapore's upcoming workplace fairness law to emphasise mediation

Instead of litigation, Singapore's upcoming workplace fairness law will put an emphasis on mediation amid concerns that it could impact workplace culture, according to Senior Minister of State for Manpower Koh Poh Koon.

Koh told members of Parliament (MPs) on Monday that workplace harmony is an "invaluable hallmark" that needs to be protected.

"Therefore, the [Tripartite Committee on Workplace Fairness's] recommendations focus on resolving disputes at source as much as possible, and emphasising mediation rather than litigation," he said.

Grievance-handling channels

This includes a recommendation that will require employers to establish grievance-handling channels to facilitate dispute within the firm.

"If that fails, mediation at the Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management will be the next step, with a focus on educating employers on fair employment practices and mending the relationship between employer and employee where possible. Adjudication at the Employment Claims Tribunals is the last resort," he said.

To ensure the protection of those coming forward to report discrimination, Koh said there will also be safeguards in place to protect them from retaliation.

Koh's remarks came amid concerns from various MPs over the potential impact of Singapore's upcoming anti-discrimination legislation on workplace culture.

"Strengthening our framework for workplace fairness through legislation is the right thing to do, but it should be done with an eye on maintaining a workplace culture that is harmonious and not litigious," the official said in his response.

Workplace fairness legislation

Over the last five years, there have been about 315 complaints of discrimination a year in Singapore.

"The most common types of discrimination complaints received were on nationality, age, sex, race and language," Koh said.

To address these issues, the Tripartite Committee on Workplace Fairness is proposing that legislation should provide protection against common and familiar forms of workplace discrimination.

"The proposed legislation is a significant step forward in enhancing protection for workers from workplace discrimination, as well as strengthening fair employment practices and outcomes," Koh said.

The Committee previously released its interim report on their recommendations for workplace fairness legislation in February 2023. It aims to finish its deliberations and release its final recommendations later this year, while targeting the second half of 2024 for the legislation.

Once in effect, Koh said the law will work with the Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practice to cover all forms of workplace discrimination.

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