Sunday, May 06, 2007

TAFEP: Good step taken against discrimination but more needed

Not fair form to ask these questions?By Lee U-Wen, TODAY
Posted: 02 May 2007 1140 hrs

THE next time you pick up a job application form, it could look different.

Certain fields — such as those asking for your gender, religion or marital status, even the space where you attach your photograph — could be absent.

As part of a national push to fight discrimination at the workplace, a new set of guidelines for fair employment practices will be launched on Thursday.

These are expected to address, among other things, some of the biggest bugbears among job-seekers here — the interview questions and application forms.

Giving TODAY a foretaste of what might be announced, Madam Halimah Yacob, co-chairperson of the one-year-old Tripartite Alliance for Fair Employment Practices, said existing guidelines were not so "specific" about what the forms could or could not ask.

"Now we are saying that questions such as religion, gender, marital status — even photographs — unless absolutely necessary should be cut out," said the assistant secretary-general of the NTUC. (read full article)

From MOM's website on TAFEP (read full guidelines here)

Dr.Huang: I have appended salient parts of guidelines below.

"IV. Recruitment
6. Consistent and fair selection criteria should be applied at all stages of the recruitment process. This will help ensure that the best candidate, assessed based on the candidate’s ability to perform the job, is recruited to fill the post. Staff involved in recruitment should be trained to recognise and avoid discriminatory practices.

Job Advertisements
7. Employers should abide by the “Tripartite Guidelines on Non-Discriminatory Job Advertisements (2006)” when advertising job vacancies. Selection criteria should be stated clearly in the job advertisements, and should principally be related to qualifications, skills, knowledge and experience. Employers who advertise a position requiring a specific attribute which may be viewed as discriminatory should ensure it is indeed a requirement of the job and state the reason for the requirement in the advertisement. This will ensure that the job requirements are well understood, expand the range of eligible candidates, and avoid negative perceptions of the employer concerned.

Criteria which should NOT be in Job Advertisements
8. Employers should not stipulate age as a requirement for employment. Words or phrases that suggest preference for job candidates of a particular age group should also not be used in job advertisements. Examples include “young”, “youthful working environment” or “fresh school leaver/ fresh graduate”.

9. If the nature of the job is physically demanding such as the handling of heavy cargo, the required physical attributes or other job-related criteria should be clearly described in the job advertisements, rather than indicating an age cut-off. Examples:

a. Candidates are required to load and unload sacks of rice of at least 10 kg each.

b. Candidates are required to handle heavy equipment.

10. Race should not be a criterion for the selection of job candidates as multi-racialism is a fundamental principle in Singapore. Selection based on race is unacceptable and job advertisements should not feature statements like “Chinese preferred” or “Malay preferred”.

11. If a job entails proficiency in a particular language, employers should justify the need for the requirement. This would reduce ambiguity and minimise incidence of misunderstanding between the job seekers and the recruiting party. Examples:

a. Chinese-language teacher for pre-school centre, good credit in ‘O’-Level Chinese.

b. Translator for a leading Malay sports magazine. Proficiency in Malay is a must.

c. Tour Guides to take Chinese/ Japanese/ Indian tourist groups. Knowledge of Mandarin/ Japanese/ Indian dialects is essential.

12. Where the practical requirements of a job dictate the need for employees of a particular sex, the reason should be clearly stated.

Women’s Fashion Boutique requires salesgirl to model clothes while on the job.
Words or phrases that suggest preference for job candidates of a particular gender such as “female working environment” or “waitress” should not be used in job advertisements.
Marital Status
13. Marital status is generally an irrelevant criterion in employment, as jobs can be performed equally well by either married or single persons.

14. Religion is unacceptable as a criterion for recruitment except in cases where employees have to perform religious functions as part of the job requirement. In such cases, the requirements should be clearly and objectively presented.

Job Applications
Job Application Forms
15. After having made clear the job requirements in the job advertisements, employers should not ask for information in job application forms which are not relevant to determining the applicant’s suitability for the job. This includes:

a. Age;
b. Race;
c. Gender;
d. Religion;
e. Photograph;
f. Marital status; and
g. Whether a female applicant is pregnant

16. Requesting such information may give rise to the perception that the employer is making preliminary assessments about the candidate based on these attributes.

17. If it is necessary to require such information (e.g. for security screening), employers should explain the need for such information. This additional information should then be made available only to the person who needs to use it for security screening etc., and not to persons involved in the selection process. Such a procedural safeguard should be made known to applicants.

18. If a standard application form is used which requests information which may not be relevant to a specific position, employers should explain in the form that it is a standard form and require the applicant to fill in only relevant parts of the form.

19. After the selection has been made, the employer may elicit personal data from the candidate for administrative purposes.

Job Interviews
20. Interviewers should be conscious not to stereotype candidates on the basis of their age, race, gender, religion or family status. Questions related to these areas should not be asked, including questions such as whether the applicant intends to have children or any more children. Such questions may be perceived as discriminatory even though there may be no intention to discriminate, and may lead to complaints of unfair treatment."

My comments

Hi Friends,

This news item had been largely ignored by our blogosphere.

To me, this is a significant step taken towards combating discrimination of racial minorities and ageism (discrimination based on age) etc.

Tripartite Alliance for Fair Employment Practices (TAFEP) correct step forward

The guideline is comprehensive and includes all steps of the recruitment process.

It may not interest bloggers and netizens as these tend to be of the younger set, but older job applicants have trouble even getting an interview for job vacancies, and many end up jobless or as taxi-drivers. This is a nice respite for them. It will however mean that Human Resource departments will have more work to do as they would not be able to sieve out unsuitable applicants at the job application stage and more interviews will be required to find the right candidate. Nevertheless, this is a small price to pay.

Although this is only a guideline and not legally binding, there will be much pressure on employers to conform to these best practices. If the “Classified ads” sections of major papers will accept only correctly phrased ads, companies cannot help but to comply.

Other discriminating practices I like to see removed

1. Removal of “race” from NRIC (National Registry Identity Cards)

In this day and age, it must an anachronism to be sub-classified as separate racial groups and to have this reflected in our identity cards. Remember the ruckus that the James Gomez Saga caused all of us during the last GE? Even though he was classified as “Indian” or is it “Eurasian”?, he still needed to apply to the election authorities to be vetted and confirmed as Indian/Eurasian!

I say remove this item to make a gesture that we are united as Singaporeans and it matters not where our forebears originate from.

2. Discrimination of Singaporeans according to political choice

The HDB should upgrade homes of citizens (85% Singaporeans live in HDB) according to priorities based on objective criteria and not whether the Member of Parliament is from PAP or not. Hougang and Potong Pasir who have opposition MP’s are victims of discrimination and have no realistic chance of getting government help for their estate upgrading.

An independent body comprising competent and non-politically affiliated members should be allowed to decide in a transparent manner which estates need upgrading. Public monies should not be used as political tools to get votes for any party.

Read an old post on this evergreen subject:
Click here :Shocking yet not unexpected ( about upgrading for PAP wards only

3. Domestic maids need more protection from MOM

MOM should take similar proactive steps to ensure that maids, who are amongst the more vulnerable sub-groups in Singapore, are accorded minimum working conditions that other Singaporeans take for granted.

How can we deny them at least one day off a week?

The present “guideline” is one day a month and even this is not compulsory and can be waived if the employer can prove that the maid has “voluntarily” surrendered this “day-off” in lieu of privately agreed compensation. MOM should do the right thing although politically this may not be popular with many Singaporeans.
Read an old post about "Maids not human? Click here

All said, I will give credit where it is due and say, "MOM, well done for the TAFEP".


Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan


Anonymous said...

Yup, the PAP govt is the racial discriminator in Singapore. With its racial quota policy on housing, minority racial requirement for GRC (which SM Goh already admitted was a tool for walk-ins of newbies), second langauge policy based on race for education. Although TAFEP is in the right direction, it is a joke that the racial discriminator is not taken to task.

aliendoc said...

I used to do pre-employment check-ups & some companies required pregnancy tests as part of the work-up. It bugged me to heck but being a teeny-weeny GP-employee voice, there wasn't much I could do about it except to follow orders from higher up.

nofearSingapore said...

anon: I don't think the govt is a racial discriminator as such but I think we have to progress with the times and start seeing each Singaporean not as member of separate races but as a unified group.
Aliendoc: employers get away with blatant disregard for basic human rights and rights of employees' privacy.

Anonymous said...

I know someone who is a bankrupt. Successfully interviewed and offered the job. But subsequently rejected once "Bankruptcy" was mentioned. Note that this is not a criminal offence. The company or business nature is not under any provisions or acts that restricts bankrupts.

nofearSingapore said...

S'poreans on the whole are risk-averse. Employers are no different.They will choose the applicant without childhood asthma and allergies, the one with the reference from previous employee, the one politically apathetic, and the one who had never taken any financial risks before and hence never been a bankrupt.
That's the harsh reality. That's why we don't make it on the first list of entrepreneurs.