While there are no recommendations by the Tripartite Committee on Workplace Fairness to include reasonable accommodations provisions within Singapore’s upcoming Workplace Fairness Legislation (WFL) itself, the Tripartite Committee has recommended establishing a Tripartite Advisory on Providing Reasonable Accommodations to Persons with Disabilities.
A Tripartite Advisory is a document issued by MOM that outlines best practices pertaining to a given topic to help employers on that given topic. There are currently 18 Tripartite Advisories – ranging from a Tripartite Advisory on the Employment of Term Contract Employees to a Tripartite Advisory on Industrial Relations Practice. It is worth noting that a Tripartite Advisory is not the same as a Tripartite Guideline. Tripartite Guidelines supplement existing laws and MOM can take action against non-compliance with Tripartite Guidelines. Tripartite Advisories, however, do not have such binding powers.
We at DPA appreciate that there will be a new Tripartite Advisory on Providing Reasonable Accommodations for Persons with Disabilities. We believe that with the right content and a strategy in place on how to utilise this new Tripartite Advisory in raising awareness on the importance of reasonable accommodations, that this new Tripartite Advisory has the potential to begin important conversations in the workplace and amongst employers on this important topic. We at DPA have also been informed that MOM is open to feedback and suggestions on what should be included within this new Tripartite Advisory and we look forward to further conversations with them.
DPA would like to put forth a few initial suggestions and questions about this new Tripartite Advisory on Providing Reasonable Accommodations to Persons with Disabilities.
In their final report, when outlining their final recommendations for the upcoming WFL, the Tripartite Committee did not specify what would be included in this new Tripartite Advisory on Reasonable Accommodations. However, by the name itself, we would like to raise the following points:
Firstly, we propose that the new Tripartite Advisory frames reasonable accommodations as a tool that can help employers. There is a misconception amongst employers that reasonable accommodations are burdensome and costly and will only drain resources. However, the opposite is true – reasonable accommodations provide a guide on how employers can modify and enhance the workplace to help their employees with disabilities and employees from other demographics produce better outcomes. The implementation of reasonable accommodations in the Singapore context comes with assistance from government grants (if the reasonable accommodations occur financial costs) and from disability organisations (if employers are unfamiliar on how to implement reasonable accommodations). The new Tripartite Advisory should specify such grants and clearly indicate how to apply and points of contact for such grants, along with the points of contact of various organisations that can assist employers with adopting reasonable accommodation practices.
Furthermore, the Tripartite Advisory should note some of the costs to employers when employers do not implement reasonable accommodation practices in their SOPs. When a company does not provide reasonable accommodations, it leads to a more hostile and non-inclusive work environment for employees, meaning that employees cannot produce what is required of them as effectively. Such an environment will not only have an impact on employees’ work but also on overall job satisfaction levels – posing the risk for such workplaces facing higher turn-over rates compared to inclusive workplaces.
Reasonable accommodations are therefore a beneficial investment that will not only benefit employees but also employers and the overall outputs of a company or organisation – and should be framed as such in the new Tripartite Advisory, while taking the opportunity to dispel such afore-mentioned common misconceptions about reasonable accommodations.
Secondly, we note that this will be a Tripartite Advisory on Providing Reasonable Accommodations to “Persons with Disabilities”. We thus recommend that definitions, examples and illustrations of disability in such an advisory should be comprehensive and inclusive of all disability groups – including psychosocial disability – and be rooted in the social model – highlighting the societal and environmental barriers faced by persons with different types of disabilities. Furthermore, while we are appreciative of this new Tripartite Advisory on Providing Reasonable Accommodations to Persons with Disabilities, reasonable accommodations should not only apply for persons with disabilities but for other minority demographics who may require modifications and adjustments to the workplace to allow them to perform their duties and tasks better – i.e. working parents, religious minorities, etc.
Thirdly, as mentioned, we believe that this new Tripartite Advisory has the potential to begin important conversations in workplaces and amongst employers – if the right strategy is implemented on how best to optimise such an Advisory.
As outlined, it is better to incorporate reasonable accommodations provisions within the WFL. If reasonable accommodations are incorporated within the WFL, we then recommend that the Tripartite Advisory on reasonable accommodations be made into Tripartite Guidelines on reasonable accommodations to provide more teeth and supplements to such provisions.
However, if the new Tripartite Advisory on Providing Reasonable Accommodations to Persons with Disabilities should remain as an Advisory, it will be vital that discussions on this new Tripartite Advisory contain discussions on a concrete roadmap on how this Advisory will meet the objectives of encouraging employers to provide reasonable accommodations. We recommend that this Advisory be accompanied with a timeline and a strategy on how MOM plans to reach employers with this advisory, along with measurable outcomes of this Advisory. For example, this could include aiming to hold [x] number of talks with [x] number of employers by [date]. This Advisory must also be accompanied with regularly conducted research that measures quantitively and qualitatively employers’ awareness and knowledge on this Advisory and if and how employers are implementing the best practices outlined in this advisory. More importantly, such research must not only be conducted with employers but also with employees on whether this Advisory is having an impact in improving the quality of employment for employees with disabilities and for employees from other minority demographics.
Summary of recommendations:
- Insert accurate depictions of reasonable accommodations in such an advisory – emphasising the benefits to employers and the costs of not implementing reasonable accommodation practices
- Ensure that the Tripartite Advisory covers all disabilities – including psychosocial disabilities – and that any definition of disability used in the advisory be aligned with the social model of disability
- Extend the advisory to cover other demographics other than persons with disabilities
- Enshrine reasonable accommodation provisions into the WFL and upgrade the Tripartite Advisory into Tripartite Guidelines. If Tripartite Advisory is to remain as an Advisory:
- Ensure new Tripartite Advisory is accompanied with a clearly outlined roadmap and strategy on how MOM plans to reach employers with the Advisory, along with regularly conducted research to ensure Advisory is meeting measurable outcomes
DPA welcomes further conversations with individuals/groups on working together to promote and actualise such and other recommendations.