Employment for the Disabled in Singapore: Laws and Schemes

Last updated on May 4, 2021

disabled man hired

Who are Persons with Disabilities (PWDs)?

Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) are persons with intellectual or physical disabilities.

A person with a physical disability can have either a total or partial loss of bodily functions, such as walking and writing, or a total or partial loss of a body part. A person with an intellectual disability has a developmental disorder where the individual faces more difficulty than others in grasping concepts and solving problems.

Disabilities can be congenital or acquired later in life, as a result of accidents or medical conditions such as stroke and infections. Some PWDs have invisible disabilities, which are disabilities that are not immediately obvious. Examples of invisible disabilities include chronic conditions like renal failure, diabetes and sleep problems that affect daily activities of living.

According to a survey conducted by the National Council of Social Service in 2015, 3.4% of Singapore’s resident population aged 18 to 49 years old are PWDs. PWDs tend to have difficulty finding work as they are stereotyped to be less productive than their abled peers in the workforce. Furthermore, such PWDs may face difficulty in the workplace due to their disability and the discrimination they may experience in the workplace.

If you are a person with a disability who is looking for work or facing discrimination at work because of your disability, you should know your employment rights under Singapore law and where you can seek employment assistance.

In this article, we will be covering:

Employment-Related Difficulties that PWDs Face

PWD job-seekers have difficulty finding work and are often offered work with lower salaries.

Despite the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP) reportedly receiving only “on average about one complaint of discrimination against people with disabilities each year”, disability organisations have noted that PWDs are usually presented with rank-and-file positions. This is in comparison to their well-abled peers who are offered leadership positions.

Few PWDs occupy leadership or upper management positions because companies do not think they are capable of the work. However, this is a misconception because disabled does not mean unable.

Even after getting hired, PWDs face employment issues that range from low pay and promotion prospects, a limited choice of jobs and prejudiced supervisors, colleagues or customers.

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Employment Laws That Protect the Employment Rights of PWDs

While there is no single legislation protecting the employment rights of PWDs, Singapore has laws to protect employees’ rights, which also cover those with disabilities. These laws are found in the Employment Act (EA), Employment Claims Act (ECA) and the Retirement and Re-employment Act (RRA).

The EA states the rights of workers, while the ECA states the regulations surrounding an employment claim and the RRA covers the rights and re-employment of older workers.

Singapore also has other laws that promote the rights of PWDs, such as the Mental Capacity Act to protect vulnerable PWDs.

Moreover, the Building Construction Authority’s Code on Accessibility 2013 and 2019 mandates buildings to incorporate requirements that improve accessibility to people of different impairments, lowering the barriers at work for PWDs.

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was also ratified by Singapore and PWDs should expect to have full and equal rights to employment.

Seeking Help for Unfair Employment Practices 

Unfair employment practices include workplace discrimination, harassment, salary-related disputes and wrongful dismissal.

According to the Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices (TGFEP), employers must hire employees on the basis of merit and should not discriminate based on age, race, gender, religion, marital status. family responsibilities or disability.

Any form of discrimination on irrelevant factors, such as dismissal due to an employee’s mental health conditions or for filing a salary-related claim (because the PWD employee was paid a lower salary due to discrimination, or not paid at all), will be in breach of the TGFEP.

PWDs who encounter unfair employment practices can seek help from the TAFEP. TAFEP will investigate reports of unfair employment practices and can refer cases to the Ministry of Manpower for further action.

Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management Mediation

The Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management (TADM) provides advisory and mediation services to employees and employers to resolve salary-related claims and employment disputes. You can make salary-related and wrongful dismissal claims against your employer by registering your claim with TADM.

Salary-related claims can be filed within 1 year of dispute if you are still employed by the company, or within 6 months from your last day of work if you are no longer employed by the company. The maximum amount claimable is $30,000 for union members and $20,000 for non-union members.

Employment Claims Tribunals

Should the employment dispute remain unresolved after mediation at TADM, you will be issued a claim referral certificate to refer your claim to the Employment Claims Tribunals (ECT).

Lawyers are not allowed to represent any party at the ECT and you must present your case yourself.

If you are a union member, a union representative can represent you. If you are unable to represent yourself because of your disability, you can authorise someone to represent you, subject to approval by the tribunal.

Support for PWDs Seeking Employment

1. Employment Support for Persons with Disabilities

Workforce Singapore has an Employment Support for Persons with Disabilities programme to enhance the employability of PWDs and increase their employment options.

Administered by SG Enable, this programme helps PWDs gain access to funding, career advisory services, training courses and post-placement job support:

  • PWDs can establish their job readiness, and identify possible training and career options with career advisory services from SG Enable’s employment coaches and Job Placement and Job Support partners.
  • PWDs are also eligible for course fee subsidies of up to 95% for SG Enable’s list of training courses, which have been curated to enhance their employability and employment options
  • Training benefits for PWDs are provided by the Workfare Skills Support scheme:
    • A training allowance of $6 per hour for PWDs
    • A training commitment award of $100 per completed course

2. School-to-Work Transition Programme

The School-to-Work Transition Programme supports schooling PWDs who wish to start working. The programme helps students to transition to the workplace by facilitating suitable job training pathways based on their vocational needs for those who have the potential to work.

These training pathways open up training and employment opportunities to final year students, such as internships, and extend for up to one year after graduation.

3. Workfare Income Supplement Scheme

Low-wage PWDs can also supplement their income and retirement savings with the Workfare Income Supplement (WIS) Scheme. The WIS scheme provides cash and CPF payouts to help employed PWDs with their expenditure needs and retirement savings.

PWDs should be aware of their employment rights and seek help if needed. If you are facing workplace discrimination such as receiving a lower wage pay, you are recommended to consult an employment disputes lawyer for legal advice on your options for resolving the dispute.

Hiring Employees
  1. How to Hire Remote Employees for Your Singapore Company
  2. Letter of Consent in Singapore: Eligibility and How to Apply
  3. Employment for the Disabled in Singapore: Laws and Schemes
  4. Overview of Employment Law in Singapore
  5. Guide to Hiring Employees in Singapore
  6. What is the Minimum Legal Age for Working in Singapore?
  7. How to Hire Foreign Workers in Singapore
  8. Work From Home Policy: Things to Consider & How to Write One
  9. Preparing an Employee Stock Option Plan (ESOP) in Singapore
  10. Guide to Re-Employment and Retirement in Singapore
Employer Obligations
  1. Guide to Maternity Leave for Expecting Mothers in Singapore
  2. The Expecting Father's Guide to Paternity Leave in Singapore
  3. How to Issue Payslips to Your Employees in Singapore
  4. An Employer’s Guide to Reimbursement of Expenses and Claims
  5. Mental Health Policies for Singapore Workplaces (Tripartite Advisory)
  6. Work-Life Balance Laws and Policies in Singapore: A Guide
  7. Progressive Wage Model: Minimum Wage Laws in Singapore
  8. Who is Covered Under the Singapore Employment Act?
  9. Employment Rights of Interns and Trainees in Singapore
  10. Employee Salary: Calculations, Deductions, Unpaid Salary & More
  11. CPF Contribution of Employees and Employers, Rates & More
  12. Can Your Boss Ask You to Work on a Public Holiday in Singapore?
  13. How to Write a Fair and Accurate Employee Reference Letter
  14. What is the employer's golden rule in the prevention of workplace injuries?
  15. Is it sufficient for employers to follow industrial wide practices for employee safety measures?
  16. Every Parent’s Guide to Childcare Leave in Singapore
  17. Death of an Employee in Singapore: What Should Employers Do?
Employment Contracts
  1. Contracts OF Service vs Contracts FOR Service in Singapore: What’s the Difference?
  2. Is Your Non-Compete Clause Enforceable in Singapore?
  3. What are Non-Solicitation Clauses? Are They Enforceable in Singapore?
  4. Must You Pay Liquidated Damages to Terminate Your Contract?
Letting Go Of Employees
  1. What Happens at the Termination of Employment?
  2. Retrenchment in Singapore: Employer Obligations and Employee Rights
  3. What to Know About Resigning from Your Singapore Job
  4. When Should Singapore Employers Use a Deed of Release?
  5. Blacklisting an Employee in Singapore: Is It Legal?
Employment Disputes
  1. Where to Get Help for an Employment Dispute in Singapore
  2. Find Employment Lawyers in Singapore
  3. Unfair Dismissal From Your Singapore Job: What to Do
  4. All You Need to Know About the Employment Claims Tribunals
  5. How to Claim Compensation for an Occupational Disease in Singapore
  6. Discriminatory Hiring: Penalties Against Employers in Singapore