SINGAPORE — Employers will have to advertise job vacancies on a new government jobs bank for at least 14 days before they apply to hire an Employment Pass (EP) holder, starting from Aug 1 next year.
The new rule, applicable to jobs paying up to S$12,000 a month, is aimed at making firms consider Singaporeans fairly for a job, said the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).
Firms that do not comply will not have their application for an EP approved. Those that have disproportionately low numbers of Singaporeans at the PME level or are repeatedly complained of nationality-discrimination in their hiring will come under “additional scrutiny”, said the MOM.
This means they must provide information on their recruitment processes and organisation charts with nationality information, among other things. Consistently errant firms may have their work pass privileges curtailed.
Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin said: “These changes are part of a broader effort to ensure that good jobs continue to be created for Singaporeans.
“The framework is not about ‘hire Singaporeans first or hire Singaporeans only’.”
Separately, the MOM also raised the qualifying salary for new EP applications by S$300 to S$3,300.
The new pay threshold will kick in for new applicants from January next year.
KEY FEATURES OF THE FAIR CONSIDERATION FRAMEWORK (FCF)
• Under the FCF, firms making new EP applications must have advertised the job vacancy on a new jobs bank administered by the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA). The advertisement must have been open to Singaporeans, comply with the Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices and run for at least 14 calendar days before an EP application can be made.
• Small firms with 25 or fewer employees, and those jobs which pay a fixed monthly salary of S$12,000 and above, will be exempted from the advertising requirement. However, if complaints are received of nationality-based or other discriminatory HR practices, these firms will attract additional scrutiny and may have their work pass privileges curtailed.
• MOM and other government agencies will also identify firms that may have scope to improve their hiring and career development practices. For example, these firms may have a disproportionately low concentration of Singaporeans at the PME level compared to others in their industry or have had repeated complaints of nationality-based or other discriminatory HR practices.
• Such firms will be asked to provide additional information to MOM such as organisation charts with nationality information, recruitment processes, staff grievance handling procedures, a framework for staff progression; and plans to develop local internal staff to take on higher roles or reduce reliance on EP holders.
• Firms that are not responsive towards improving their recruitment and training practices, may be asked to attest that the firm will not displace any similarly employed Singaporean within 60 calendar days before or after applying or renewing EPs, and display a factsheet containing key information submitted to MOM at its workplace.
• Unresponsive firms should expect greater scrutiny and a longer review period for their EP applications. They may also have their work pass privileges curtailed.
ENHANCED EP QUALIFYING REQUIREMENTS
• From January 2014, the qualifying salary for new EP applications will be raised from S$3,000 to S$3,300, in line with rising salaries. Applicants will have to earn a salary of at least S$3,300 a month or more, depending on qualifications and experience
• Young graduates from good educational institutions can qualify if they earn at least S$3,300, and older applicants will have to command higher salaries to qualify, commensurate with the work experience and quality they are expected to bring.
New regulations for firms seeking to hire EP holders
By Teo Xuanwei
24 September 2013
SINGAPORE — Jittery employers were relieved yesterday after hearing about the Government’s plans to make them consider Singaporeans for vacancies.
On edge about the possibility of an onerous regime that will make hiring skilled foreigners even harder — following several waves of policy changes in recent years to curb imported labour, including steeper levies — businesses learnt that they have to first advertise job openings for 14 days on a new, free portal run by the Singapore Workforce Development Agency before they can turn to Employment Pass (EP) holders.
The “fair consideration framework”, announced by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), follows rising numbers of complaints about nationality-based discrimination in hiring, which many frequently accuse the banking, services and IT sectors of.
The advertising rule will apply from August next year for companies with more than 25 workers and which are seeking foreign professionals, managers and executives (PMEs) for jobs paying up to S$12,000.
Among Singaporeans, 95 per cent are within this salary range.
Firms that attempt to “go through the motions”, as Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin put it, could face additional scrutiny and be made to show the MOM their organisation charts that detail the nationalities of workers, outline how they recruit, handle grievances and plan progression, as well as craft plans to develop Singaporean staff to take on bigger roles or reduce reliance on EP holders.
Errant firms may be hit with further requirements, such as declaring they will not let go of Singaporeans in a job they are applying or renewing EPs for 60 days prior and after. They should also “expect greater scrutiny and a longer review period for their EP applications”, or may have their work pass privileges curtailed, said the MOM.
It will also raise the qualifying pay for new EP applications for fresh graduates by S$300 to S$3,300 from January — the third hike since 2011.
Although there were fears that laws would be put in place to compel firms to give priority to locals, Mr Tan reiterated why it chose to “nudge” employers instead.
“Fair consideration is fundamentally about attitudes and mindsets,” he said. “It is neither possible to change mindsets overnight nor legislate the problem away ... It requires persuasion, explanation and leading by example,” said Mr Tan.
Business federations agreed with what they described as a “light touch” approach, saying that the rule will serve as a reminder to employers to give Singaporeans a chance.
Association of Small and Medium Enterprises President Chan Chong Beng said: “Naturally, there were concerns that there would be new laws or harsh measures ... but I think this new rule is a fair move that doesn’t make it too difficult for companies.”
Mr Tan also stressed that the new rule was not about getting employers to “hire Singaporeans first, or hire Singaporeans only”, noting that firms that are unable to find “suitable” Singaporeans can still bring in those with the skills needed from overseas.
Reiterating that the Republic has and will remain open to imported skills and talent, Mr Tan pointed out that the rule is only about helping Singaporeans get a “fair opportunity” and is not a “silver bullet”. “Singaporeans must still prove themselves able and competitive to take on the higher jobs that they aspire to,” he said.
While the “jury is out”, in the words of the Singapore International Chamber of Commerce’s Jonathan Asherson, on whether firms will indeed follow the spirit of the law, CIMB economist Song Seng Wun said he did not think Singapore’s competitiveness, as a place to work or set up shop, would be dented by the move.
“If you look at the figures, more are coming in than are leaving, even though costs are not low here,” he said. “As long as Singapore continues to be seen as a favourable place to live, work and play, it will not be an issue.”
Before the advertising rules kick in, the MOM will, from the first quarter of next year, also look for firms that warrant “additional scrutiny” because they either have a disproportionately low proportion of Singaporeans at the PME level compared to their industry’s benchmark or have repeatedly faced complaints about discriminatory human resource practices.
Writing on the MOM blog, Mr Tan said: “This is something ... we will be actively monitoring to add teeth to the advertising requirement, since we are realistic that some recalcitrant firms may try to ‘go through the motions’.”
The ministry had, together with employer and worker union representatives, studied models in other countries, such as the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Germany and Hong Kong. “Many months of intense and wide-ranging consultations with various stakeholders” also went into coming up with the framework, Mr Tan said.
He noted that the new advertising requirement also serves “a larger purpose of facilitating greater labour market transparency”. Having a central pool of job vacancies will help the Government to “discern existing skill gaps and also better facilitate job-matching”, he added.