Increase in workplace harassment reports due to greater awareness: Josephine Teo

Reported incidents of workplace harassment went from zero in 2017 to nine in 2018, and 13 last year. (PHOTO: Getty Images)

SINGAPORE – Singapore has seen more reports of workplace harassment where employers have been the subject of such complaints.

And it’s because of “greater awareness following the global #MeToo movement in late 2017” as well as the establishment of a help and resource centre by the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP) last year, said Minister for Manpower Josephine Teo in Parliament on Tuesday (18 February).

Such reported incidents went from zero in 2017 to nine in 2018, and 13 last year. In total, there have been 22 reports made to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).

Teo, who was responding to a question by Nominated Member of Parliament Assoc Prof Walter Theseira, said, “In each of these cases, the employer had not properly followed up on allegations of workplace harassment. TAFEP engaged the employer to educate and ensure they implement measures in the Tripartite Advisory on Managing Workplace Harassment, including asking the employer to re-investigate the complaint, where necessary.”

She revealed that in one of the 22 cases, the employer was alleged to have verbally harassed the complainant. TAFEP thus additionally advised the employer to be more mindful of his behaviour and respectful when engaging his staff.

So far, all the employers that TAFEP engaged have been cooperative and receptive to their advice, she said.

Watchlist not necessary

To a related question on whether a watchlist exists, Teo said, “A watchlist allows MOM to monitor specific workforce metrics of employers suspected of errant behaviours to see if they have improved their employment practices.

“However, workplace harassment complaints typically involve specific incidents and persons. There are no clearly identifiable metrics to monitor,” she added.

Thus, she concluded, a watchlist approach is “impractical”.

“Instead, MOM’s policy is to revoke the work pass privileges of egregious offenders, such as employers who fail to provide a safe environment for employees or refuse to improve their grievance handling processes,” said Teo.

More Singapore stories:

Budget 2020: Overall budget deficit of $10.9b expected for FY2020

Budget 2020: All vehicles to run on cleaner energy by 2040

Budget 2020: $5 billion fund for Singapore to combat rising sea levels

Budget 2020: $1.6 billion package to help Singaporeans amid economic slowdown

Budget 2020: $8.3 billion for economic transformation and growth

Budget 2020: SkillsFuture expansion to aid Singaporeans' development

Budget 2020: GST increase will not take place in 2021

Budget 2020: $5.6B packages to help alleviate economic slowdown

UPDATES: Budget 2020: Singapore prepares S$6.4 billion for coronavirus relief measures