• Never Grow Up

Breaking Down Discrimination at Work


According to the Manpower Research and Statistics Department, Singapore reports one of the lowest workplace harassment incidents, as compared with other European countries. In 2018, about 2.4% of the labour workforce was said to have personally encountered either harassment or bullying at their workplace.

But on the other hand, according to a 2019 survey conducted by the Institute of Policy Studies and OnePeople (Singapore), Indians (68%) and Malaysians (73%) feel discriminated against while applying for jobs.

Breaking down how it begins

Workplace bullying is hazardous and it can all begin from a small gesture – Consistently being taunted or treated in a manner that leads to physical strain and causes emotional trauma. If unattended, this can further escalate into workplace discrimination, or even, harassment.

According to a survey conducted by Kantar (a data, insights, and consulting firm) Singapore has been identified as the ‘second-worst’ country when it comes to employee engagement or workplace inclusion and diversity.

Some of the commonly observed forms of discrimination occur based on age, cultural diversity (skin colour, race, ethnicity), gender, disability, and pay gaps, amongst others. An offensive joke regarding an individual’s racial or cultural background, intimidation or the ask for a sexual favour, constant nagging and interference with work followed by uncalled for insults, stinkers and emails of ridicule without a concrete reason, physical assaults, the list is endless.

According to a 2018 study conducted by the Ministry Of Manpower, about 6% of women are paid lesser than their male counterparts in the same roles.

Harassment can also be classified into the broad buckets of verbal, psychological, physical, sexual, and even digital (cyber-bullying). However, at the workplace it may not always have a history or any concrete physical evidence. But can be recognized by the behaviour of the harasser. A commonly believed myth is that the harasser is usually someone in power or authority. Well, a peer or even someone who reports to you could be classified in the same category.

Need of the hour

As an employer, looking after the employee’s holistic well-being should not just a responsibility, but also, a priority. Onboarding counsellors, therapists or mental health professionals who are trained in dealing with people who have faced discrimination is a must. Especially, for individuals that are unsure about whether what they have faced is discrimination or are unsure of how and whom to complain, it acts like a trusted source to approach as well as a credible source that will help them find a positive way to overcome it.

Putting in place a robust Employee Assistance Program will help address all concerns – be it workplace bullying, or mental and emotional well-being.

Supporting organizations

Being the main labour law governing the foundation of Singapore’s manpower, The Employment Act protects and promotes fair hiring practices. The Ministry Of Manpower (MOM) is said to have imposed new anti-discrimination obligations for all licensed employment agencies. Adherence to which may also lead to a suspension of the privileges enjoyed via the employer's work pass, or even prosecution.

In 2014, the Parliament of Singapore introduced the Protection from Harassment Act (POHA), that also includes unlawful cyberstalking, civil remedies, and self-help measures for victims of sexual harassment. Further supporting the diversified culture and taking yet another step towards inclusion, MOM in collaboration with the SGUnited Jobs and Skills Packages will also provide assistance to those who are unemployed for long-term, are mature job seekers, as well as persons with disabilities.

If you are being harassed or feel any form of discrimination at the workplace, reach out to the authorities.

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