With Singapore's Parliament in session, a number of questions are being asked around topics such as mental health awareness, medical certificates from TCM practitioners, perceptions of discriminatory hiring, and more. We've summed up some of the key discussions relevant for employers here.
Zaqy Mohamad, Minister of State for Manpower, was quizzed by NCMP Associate Professor Daniel Goh Pei Siong on workplace fatalities and injuries. He allayed concerns by sharing that the workplace fatal injury rate was maintained at the historic low level achieved in 2018.
He shared the following chart showing steady improvements in the workplace fatal injury rate in the last two decades:
"However, preliminary data shows that the non-fatal major injury rate crept up slightly in 2019 when compared with 2018. More details will be released in the 2019 National WSH Statistics Report by end February 2020," Minister Zaqy added.
Going forward, as outlined in the WSH 2028 roadmap, Singapore aims to achieve and sustaining a workplace fatal injury rate of less than 1.0 per 100,000 workers by 2028 - a goal with only four OECD member countries have achieved on a sustained basis.
Per Minister Zaqy: "One key challenge in realising this aspiration is the risk of increasing ill-health among the workforce, including of chronic diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
"To reduce accidents in a sustainable manner, we will need more attention on supporting health, not just improving safety."
Minister Zaqy also responded to MP Leon Perera's question around perceptions of discriminatory hiring and other HR practices, and if there is any survey data available on this topic.
He cited a 2018 survey commissioned by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), where over 80% of job seekers did not feel that their gender, marital status, number of children, race, religion or nationality was an impediment when finding work.
"The majority of employees also felt that they were fairly treated in their organisation, in terms of their employment terms and benefits, training, career development, and performance evaluation."
However, rather than depending on perception surveys alone, MOM relies on other indicators for evidence of workplace discrimination, Ministry Zaqy noted.
"A good indicator is the number of complaints, which decreased from about 580 in 2015 to about 200 in 2018 and constitutes less than 1% of all complaints received. Discriminatory job advertisements have become rare."
Additionally, the employment rate of older residents aged 55 to 64 increased from 57% in 2009 to 68% in 2019; while that of female residents aged 25 to 64 increased from 64% to 73% over the same period.
On the topic of health, MP Er Dr Lee Bee Wah, asked if it's possible to review the policy concerning medical certificates (MCs) issued by Ministry-approved TCM physicians.
Josephine Teo, Minister for Manpower, noted that the Employment Act requires employers to grant paid outpatient sick leave to employees with MCs issued by any medical practitioners registered under the Medical Registration Act (MRA).
As such, TCM practitioners can also be registered, if they fulfil the requirements of the MRA. This is a change in policy since April 2019, when employers were only required to recognise MCs if they were issued by a Government or company-appointed medical practitioner.
"This is already a wider recognition of MCs," affirmed Minister Teo.
Minister Teo also responded to MP Perera on a separate question around the determination of the citizen unemployment rate being impacted by those who have become new citizens in each year.
To this, Minister Teo clarified that while the citizen unemployment rate survey asks for the citizenship of the respondent, it does not require the respondent to indicate when he or she obtained citizenship.
"In any case, the addition of new citizens does not change the citizen unemployment rate in any significant way," she said, going on to share an example:
"Suppose the citizen unemployment rate is 3%. This means, if there were only 100 citizens in the labour force, three of them are unemployed. Suppose an employed person becomes a citizen, this translates to a 1% growth in the citizen labour force. There are now 101 citizens in the labour force, but still only three who are unemployed. As a result, the citizen unemployment rate falls by 0.03%-point to 2.97%. Compared to 3%, the effect is mathematically very small.
She went on to add that out of 3.5 million Singapore citizens, significantly less than 1% received their citizenship within the past year. "This means that the impact to the citizen labour force and unemployment rate is essentially negligible."
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