Tafep seen as toothless if not given legal powers to act

Every employer must abide by the Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices, or have their applications for Employment Passes subject to scrutiny (Firms adopting unfair employment practices will be placed on watchlist; March 29).

This was according to a joint statement from Mrs Roslyn Ten of the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (Tafep) and Ms Christine Loh from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM),

On the surface, this sounds like a positive step to address discriminatory action.

However, apart from limited provisions protecting older workers or women from being fired because of their age or pregnancy, there is still no legislation concerning workplace discrimination.

Our Government has long acknowledged that ageism is a problem in Singapore.

However, it has maintained that introducing anti-discriminatory laws could increase business costs and undermine our economic competitiveness.

Such an assertion does not appear to be accurate since the global competitiveness of nations with anti-discrimination laws, including the United States, Britain, Germany, the Netherlandsand Japan, remains relatively stable.

Both Tafep and MOM maintain that the prevalence of discriminatory actions against older workers remains low (Action taken in cases of workplace discrimination; March 12).

As long as there are no specific anti-discrimination laws in place, older workers affected by forced layoffs will consider making official complaints a waste of time.

This accounts for the decline in the number of age-related discrimination complaints reported in the past two years.

In a 2013 survey by Tafep, 98 per cent of employers claimed to value highly the knowledge and skills of seniors, and 71 per cent of respondents claimed that older employees do not cost more to hire.

In spite of such politically correct responses, nearly two-thirds of resident employees made redundant in 2015 were aged above 40.

Based on my decades of experience in the corporate world, ageism is widely practised by many employers who consider older workers to be more costly to hire andtougher to train. They would rather invest in training and development programmes for younger staff.

Without legal powers to take errant employers to task, Tafep is seen as a toothless organisation which merely advocates fairness in the workplace.

Aggrieved employees will tell us that such a subdued approach is an exercise in futility.

Edmund Khoo Kim Hock

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