Singapore: New discrimination laws on the horizon in 2024

What’s new?

Presently, there are no binding laws or legislation that tackle workplace discrimination / discriminatory practices in Singapore, but this is due to change soon.

The Government has now approved the final recommendations put forward by the Tripartite Committee for the “Workplace Fairness Legislation”. The final report, which was issued in August 2023, contains 15 recommendations which are to be implemented into the new legislation in the latter half of 2024. The aim is to create fairer and more harmonious workplaces in Singapore with stronger protection against discrimination.

What are some of the key recommendations?

  1. The Workplace Fairness Legislation will only govern direct discrimination where a person or group of people are treated less favourably than another person or group of people due to a protected characteristic. As such, workplace discrimination based on a protected characteristic will be prohibited.
    ‘Protected characteristic’ is to be defined as age; nationality; sex, marital status, pregnancy status, caregiving responsibilities; race, religion, language; and disability and mental health condition.
  2. The legislation will govern all phases of employment, from recruitment to promotion and performance appraisal, all the way to termination. It will not, however, apply to companies with less than 25 employees, although this position is to be reviewed in five years.
  3. Employers will be required to have a grievance handling process in place which includes an adequate inquiry and documentation process and allows the confidentiality of the individual reporting the workplace discrimination to be maintained where possible. Employers will also be required to notify all employees of the grievance procedure and communicate the outcome of any inquiry to the relevant employee.
  4. It will be mandatory for mediation of discrimination disputes to first take place at the Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management (TADM), with adjudication at the Employment Claims Tribunals (ECT) being a last resort. The ECT will have the power to strike out frivolous or vexatious claims, award costs against such claimants, and provide compensation up to S$30,000 depending on the type of claim.

So, what should employers do now?

Employers should familiarise themselves with the final report of recommendations. In addition, employers should prepare to make the necessary changes to their internal processes and policies, to ensure compliance once the new legislation comes into effect. If you need any support with this, or would like any further information, please get in touch with a member of the MDR ONE team.

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