With May traditionally marked as Mental Health Awareness Month in parts of the world, Zaqy Mohamad, Minister of State for Manpower for Singapore was asked a Parliamentary question on mental health at work by MP Anthea Ong.
Checking on whether persons with mental health conditions will be included in the Special Employment Credit and Open Door programmes, Minister Zaqy clarified that these two programmes cover persons with special needs who face significant disadvantages in employment. This refers to those with physical, sensory, intellectual and developmental impairments, which are unlike mental health conditions which can improve or be managed with appropriate interventions.
However, he recognised that jobseekers with mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety disorders may also require employment assistance.
In such cases, he explained: "They can approach the Job Club under the Institute of Mental Health for job preparation and matching services, while managing their conditions. They can also tap on the range of programmes and services under the Adapt and Grow Initiative."
Minister Zaqy was also asked whether "work stress" will be listed as among a priority under long-term challenges alongside "ageing workforce and technology".
To this, he noted that efforts have been underway to educate companies to be more aware of how work stress may lead to mental health issues, and of progressive practices they can adopt to help employees manage stress, whether from work or non-work factors.
He shared the example of the Health Promotion Board providing on-site management training workshops to equip managers and HR professionals with skills to recognise and address common mental health issues; and also its workplace mental health programmes that provide practical tips.
Meanwhile, the Workplace Safety and Health Institute’s research on work stress will continue to help in educating and socialising companies to be more aware of the effects of stress.
He stressed that while legislation is necessary to ensure employment protection, for this issue the tripartite partners prefer a promotional approach to bring about more progressive workplaces.
He explained: "This recognises the diverse workforce and employers, where rigid prescriptions are unlikely to be effective or may deter employers from hiring.
"To help workers and employers deal with the challenges of mental health at the workplace, we will continue to raise awareness, step up education and share best practices."