SINGAPORE: Employment agencies in Singapore will have to meet new licence conditions to strengthen fair hiring practices, announced the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) on Monday (Jun 22).
The nearly 3,900 employment agencies licensed by MOM must not in any way abet discriminatory hiring by their clients, such as by withholding applications based on age, race, nationality, gender and disability.
They must also turn down requests or instructions from clients to carry out discriminatory hiring, it added.
In addition to helping clients fulfil job advertising requirements, employment agencies must also “make reasonable efforts” to attract Singaporeans for vacancies and consider all applicants based on merit, said MOM.
These licence conditions take effect from October, and those that do not comply may have their licence revoked or suspended, or be issued demerit points.
MOM said that employment agencies are “key labour market intermediaries” that help employers fill vacant positions, noting that three in 10 positions are filled through employment agencies.
While most agencies are “careful to uphold fair hiring”, the ministry said it received about 20 complaints each year in the last 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 MOM’s Fair Consideration Framework, which sets out requirements for all employers to consider job seekers fairly for opportunities.
Earlier this year, harsher penalties were announced for companies that discriminate in their hiring practices.
“Discrimination in the workplace is not acceptable … We investigate all complaints that are brought to our attention,” said MOM on Monday.
“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.”
EMPLOYMENT AGENCIES AS MOM’S PLACEMENT PARTNERS
The ministry also said on Monday that it will appoint 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.
The S$2 billion package, announced by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat during the fourth Budget this year, aims to create close to 100,000 opportunities. These include more than 40,000 jobs, 25,000 traineeships and 30,000 skills training placements.
MOM will provide funding support to these selected employment agencies to place mature job seekers, long-term unemployed job seekers or people with disabilities into jobs and traineeships.
“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.
NEW HUMAN CAPITAL PARTNERSHIP MARK
For employment agencies that have shown “strong commitment” to fair recruitment practices and “helped employers to strengthen their Singaporean core”, MOM will introduce a new Human Capital Partnership (HCP) Mark.
This is an expansion of the tripartite HCP programme, which has recognised more than 550 employers to date.
“Employers will be able to identify the best-in-class EAs that can help them grow their businesses and stay competitive by developing a strong local talent pipeline,” said MOM., adding that it expects to include the first group of such employment agencies to the programme later this year.
“At the same time that we tighten licence conditions, we aim to recognise progressive EAs and enhance support so they can place more local jobseekers into suitable openings,” said the ministry.
“We urge EAs to do their part to help Singaporeans access good jobs and make progress in their careers, especially at this challenging time.”