- On 23 December 2015, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) and Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) jointly issued a Tripartite Advisory on Managing Workplace Harassment (Tripartite Advisory) to help employers and employees prevent and manage workplace harassment.
- The Tripartite Advisory is intended to serve as a practical guide for employers and employees to better prevent and manage harassment at the workplace by emphasising the importance of proactive management and focusing on preventive measures to ensure a safe and conducive workplace. The Tripartite Advisory also suggests key steps and remedial actions that employers and affected persons can take in responding to harassment when it occurs.
Protection from Harassment Act
- The Protection from Harassment Act (Cap. 256A) (POHA) was introduced in 2014 to provide civil and criminal recourse to better protect individuals from harassment and related anti-social behaviour. It does not impose any specific legal obligations on employers with regard to workplace harassment.
- The Tripartite Advisory recognises that workplace harassment prevention is one facet of the broader POHA, and states that both employers and employees have an interest and responsibility to prevent and manage workplace harassment.
Good Practices to Prevent and Respond to Workplace Harassment
- The Tripartite Advisory encourages employers to proactively identify, evaluate and control the risk of harassment at the workplace to ensure a safe, healthy and harmonious workplace. It recommends employers utilitise the Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) risk management process as it provides a systematic approach for employers to minimise the potential for harassment occurrence at the workplace. This involves evaluating the potential of the harassment risk, implementing appropriate preventive and control measures, and communicating these measures to staff.
- The Tripartite Advisory also encourages employers to consider the following good practices to prevent and respond to harassment at the workplace:
- developing a harassment prevention policy;
- providing information and training on workplace harassment; and
- implementing reporting and response procedures.
- It states that employers should develop a formal harassment prevention policy, in consultation with workers in the organisation and the unions (if any), which prohibits harassment and also ensures recourse in the case of harassment at the workplace. This policy should be communicated clearly to all levels of the organisation.
- Next, employers should train their employees, especially the Human Resource(s) Department, line managers and supervisors to handle harassment cases, and consider establishing a support group or engaging professionals to provide counselling services and support to affected persons.
- Other procedures which should be developed to handle potential workplace harassment issues include: (i) harassment reporting line to ensure timely reporting; (ii) investigation procedures to ensure fair treatment of workplace harassment issues; and (iii) closure to prevent recurrence of incident.
- Some examples of measures that employers can consider implementing to reduce the potential risk of harassment faced by customer-facing staff are:
- putting up clear and prominent signs at suitable locations to promote observance of respectful behaviour;
- displaying notification that harassment is unacceptable behaviour on corporate website and plasma/LCD displays in premises;
- increasing lighting in and around the workplace;
- installing close-circuit television (CCTV);
- increasing site security inside and outside the building; and
- controlling access to the building or certain places e.g. access cards, keys.
How the Tripartite Advisory Affects Employers
- Whilst not legally binding, we note that the Tripartite Advisory provides context for how the POHA may apply in the workplace. It also raises the profile of workplace harassment and provides valuable insight into the policy and position that the tripartite partners, i.e. MOM, NTUC and SNEF, may adopt with regard to preventing and managing workplace harassment.
- The tripartite partners and workgroup members have stated that they intend to actively promote the adoption of the good practices recommended in the Tripartite Advisory, and companies in Singapore should consider adopting these practices.
- For reference, MOM’s press release may be accessed at this link: http://www.mom.gov.sg/newsroom/press-releases/2015/1223-tripartite-advisory-on-managing-workplace-harassment.