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SNEF’s rationale for opposing workplace discrimination laws perplexing: Voices

SNEF’s rationale for opposing workplace discrimination laws perplexing: Voices

Source: TODAY
Article Date: 20 Dec 2020

The writer says responsible employers should join the growing call for stronger measures to deal with workplace discrimination.

I refer to the letter, "Here's why workplace discrimination laws are not the way to go: SNEF" (Dec 15), from Mr Sim Gim Guan of the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF). 

While I am heartened to read that SNEF agrees errant employers should not get away with discriminatory practices, it is perplexing that the federation opposes the enactment of an anti-discrimination legislation because of the risk of vexatious legal claims and potentially higher costs for businesses dealing with such complaints.

First, justice and equality are principles enshrined in our National Pledge. The realisation of these core values that have guided our country's development should not be sacrificed at the altar of business efficacy.

In any case, these are matters that can be addressed by building in mechanisms to weed out baseless claims and allow parties to resolve disputes in a speedy and inexpensive way. 

Such mechanisms already exist under the Employment Claims Act enacted in 2016 to enable the expeditious resolution of employment disputes. 

Second, SNEF does not explain why employers supported outlawing pregnancy discrimination through the Employment Act, but reject extending this protection to other groups on the basis of race, religion, sex, disability or age. 

The case of pregnancy discrimination also shows how such a law has worked effectively to deter such errant practices. This should alleviate SNEF's fears that a legislative approach will sour the employment relationship. 

Furthermore, research has shown that affording employees legal protection from discrimination will improve workplace relations and increase productivity.

Lastly, while the existing business-case approach that the tripartite partners have adopted is insufficient to deter errant employers, SNEF has said that it would continue working closely with the tripartite partners to shape mindsets and employment practices to build inclusive workplaces.

It would be helpful if SNEF could specify how exactly it plans to do this and how such measures would lead to a better outcome than the legislative approach.

Rather than oppose an omnibus anti-discrimination legislation because of commercial considerations, responsible employers should join the growing call for stronger measures to deal with this issue and work with civil society towards an inclusive Singapore for all.

Copyright 2020 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

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