Singapore’s employment agencies will have to meet new license conditions to strengthen fair hiring practices. This announcement was made by the nation’s Ministry of Manpower (MOM) earlier this week.

According to the MOM, the nearly 3,900 employment agencies that are currently licensed by the ministry must not in any way abet discriminatory hiring by their clients, such as by withholding applications based on age, race, nationality, gender and disability. In addition, these agencies must also turn down requests or instruction from clients to carry out discriminatory hiring.

In addition to helping clients fulfill job advertising requirements, employment agencies must also “make reasonable efforts” to attract Singaporeans for vacancies and consider all applicants based on merit, said MOM.

Current plans are for these new license conditions to take effect from October 2020. Agencies who do not comply with these new rules may have their license revoked or suspended. In some outstanding cases, they would be issued demerit points instead.

The MOM has also stated that employment agencies are a key part of the Singaporean workforce market that help to fill vacant positions. However, the ministry said that it has received up to 20 complaints each year for the past three years against employment agencies for discriminatory job advertisements.

“Following investigations, MOM found it necessary to take action against almost all of these EAs (employment agencies),” said the ministry.

The new licence conditions are in line with the MOM’s Fair Consideration Framework. This framework sets out requirements for all employers in Singapore to consider the workforce in Singapore fairly for job opportunities. Earlier this year, the MOM had implemented harsher penalties for companies that were found to have discrimination in their hiring practices.

“Discrimination in the workplace is not acceptable … We investigate all complaints that are brought to our attention. Where employers have been found to be discriminatory, we have taken firm action. This includes suspending work pass privileges of employers with discriminatory practices or prosecuting them for violating the law,” said the MOM.

In addition to the new requirements, the MOM also announced that it will be appointing selected employment agencies that have shown the ability to hire fairly as Placement Partners,  to help local job seekers secure work and traineeships under the SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package.

Said package is worth S$2 billion (US$1.4 billion) and was announced earlier this year by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat during the fourth budget discussion. The package aims to create close to 100,000 opportunities; which include more than 40,000 jobs, 25,000 traineeships, and 30,000 skills training placements.

“This initiative will create additional pathways for more vulnerable local jobseekers to access professional career matching services and opportunities suited to their skills and aspirations,” said MOM in a press release, adding that more details will be announced at a later date.


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