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Proper Grievance Handling Processes in the Workplace

The Tripartite Committee on Workplace Fairness has recommended that part of Singapore’s upcoming Workplace Fairness Legislation (WFL) is to require employers to “put in place proper grievance handling processes, so that aggrieved employees and their employers try to resolve disputes amicably within the firm”.

The Tripartite Committee further recommends that the following grievance handling requirements be legislated:

  • Putting in place a proper inquiry and documentation process
  • Informing employees of the firm’s grievance handling procedures
  • Communicating the outcome of the inquiry to the affected employee
  • Protecting the confidentiality of the identity of persons who report workplace discrimination and harassment, where possible
DPA’s Response:

The above four measures are important outcomes of grievance handling processes, and we are heartened that the Tripartite Committee has recommended for them to be legislated.

However, as we have noted in our response to the Tripartite Committee’s Interim Report, making the grievance handling process accessible to disabled employees should constitute as what it means to have a “proper grievance handling process”. There should be accessibility requirements legislated to ensure that the grievance handling process is accessible to persons and employees with disabilities.

From our research, persons with disabilities have shared that they often do not report incidents of discrimination as the reporting mechanisms and channels available to them are not accessible (i.e. whether it be websites that are not screen reader accessible, offices to deal with discrimination claims being located in parts of an office or building that is not wheelchair accessible, instructions on the reporting process not made available in easy-read or plain text formats, etc.) – making reporting incidents of discrimination either unfairly arduous or impossible for disabled persons to do so in ways that will protect their anonymity or confidentiality.

This is one reason as to why we believe that the total number of disability-based discrimination complaints received by the tripartite Alliance on Fair Employment Practices (TAFEP) (as stated in the Tripartite Committee’s Final Report) is not an accurate reflection of the total number of incidents of disability-based discrimination.

One of the main guiding principles of the Tripartite Committee in formulating its final recommendations for the upcoming WFL is to “give more assurance to workers that they can report workplace discrimination or harassment without fear of retaliation”. The Tripartite Committee also state in their Final Report that one of their intentions of the WFL is to “provide individuals an additional avenue to seek redress” in cases of discrimination. We are thus concerned that without accessibility requirements included in legislated grievance handling processes within the WFL, that persons with disabilities will be left behind and that the WFL will not be effective in assisting persons with disabilities in coming forward to report incidents of discrimination.

We at DPA are in conversations with TAFEP about this and are appreciative that the individuals we have been speaking to understand this gap and the need to address it. We at DPA are in the midst of setting up a direct referral system between ourselves and TAFEP – where individuals with disabilities who have experienced discrimination but cannot for any reason report the case internally within their firm can come to us at DPA and we can refer the individual to TAFEP for assistance.

However, we still believe that legislation is required to better ensure accessibility across the board. As per the other four proposed legislated grievance handling requirements, an accessibility requirement will be and should be in place regardless of whether a company or organization currently has disabled employees. To assist in setting up this requirement, MOM can consider introducing Tripartite Guidelines on Inclusive Grievance Handling Processes to provide basic accessibility standards and to supplement this requirement. Alternatively, MOM can consider updating the Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices (TGFEP) to specify or provide examples of accessible and disability-inclusive grievance handling processes. Currently, the Tripartite Grievance Handling Handbook does state that “for effective administration, the application for the grievance process must be user-friendly and easily accessible to all employees”. However, the handbook does not include examples on making such applications accessible in cases where the employee is disabled.

Summary of recommendations:
  • Insert a legislated requirement that grievance handling processes are required to be made accessible – including to employees with disabilities
  • Introduce Tripartite Guidelines on Inclusive Grievance Handling Processes and/or modify the existing TGFEP and the Tripartite Grievance Handling Handbook to include specifications on disability-inclusive grievance handling processes to supplement such any legislated requirements

DPA welcomes further conversations with individuals/groups on working together to promote and actualise such and other recommendations.


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