Employment for the Disabled in Singapore: Laws and Schemes
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.
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