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Obligation to ensure laws are fair to those with disabilities: Forum

Obligation to ensure laws are fair to those with disabilities: Forum

Source: Straits Times
Article Date: 09 Feb 2021

A review of the existing legislation is urgently required to increase its scope of protection against discrimination.

The spike in wrongful dismissal claims in the second quarter of last year and the 60 per cent increase in employers being investigated for discriminatory hiring practices in the first half of last year compared with the year before, cannot be dismissed lightly (Spike in wrongful dismissal claims in Q2; More employers investigated for unfair hiring, both Nov 20, 2020).

Similarly, claims that only a minority of employers carry out discriminatory practices need to be substantiated.

If there is a discrepancy between the sentiments of employees and their employers, it is a worrying concern that needs to be researched further.

While the number of discrimination complaints can fluctuate year to year, the fundamental nature of discrimination does not change. It can manifest in different forms, such as gender, age or disability.

As such, existing legislation still leaves a gap that needs to be addressed.

A point to consider is that the law in Singapore is currently unclear on the dismissal of an employee for conduct which is the result of a mental condition, and by extension, wrongful dismissal amounting to discrimination of people with disabilities (PWDs).

As Singapore is a state party to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, it also has an obligation to ensure employment laws are fair to PWDs.

As such, a review of the existing legislation is urgently required to increase its scope of protection against discrimination.

The enactment of legislation does not exclude the use of mediation. It is a useful complement to deter errant employers rather than to punish them. Employers should not be afraid if errant ones are in the minority.

The effect of legislation on the mindsets of employees to report discriminatory practices is unknown, but the ability to do so with legal protection is a basic right.

Victor Ho (Dr)

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

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