Singapore to penalise mental health discrimination

Employers can now be punished for asking jobseekers to declare their condition on application forms.

Asking job applicants to declare mental health conditions without good reason has been declared a discriminatory practice in Singapore. The Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (Tafep) is a committee within government that helps employers to improve their record of recruiting and promoting Singaporeans and to comply with laws and policies to promote the adoption of fair, responsible and merit-based employment practices, and it has recently changed its guidelines to discourage mental health discrimination. Specifically, the guidelines now warn employers against asking job applicants to declare personal information such as their mental health condition “unless there is a job-related requirement.” 

If employers fail to remove them, Tafep may refer the case to the Ministry of Manpower for “enforcement actions” on the grounds of discrimination.

Tafep President Halimah Yacob posted an update on Facebook, confirming the changes to the guidelines, saying many Singaporeans had complained about the requirement to disclose mental health conditions in job application forms.  

“I’m really glad that the Tripartite Alliance for Fair Employment Practices has now declared that this is discriminatory. Indeed it is,” she writes. 

“The perennial dilemma for applicants with such conditions is how to respond. If they are honest, they will not get the job. If they hide it and is subsequently discovered, it can be a ground for dismissal because of a false declaration. Why put them in such a situation? After all, there are many famous people in the world, including artists, performers, scientists, authors and academics who had suffered from mental health conditions but that did not obstruct their ability to achieve excellence and world renown.”

Halima concluded by saying that, not only was the practice discriminatory, it was also one of the major contributing factors for why people with mental health issues do not seek treatment, only serving to increase the stigma that surrounds mental illnesses.

“This is a small step but change must begin somewhere and having the courage to look at a problem in the eye and calling it for what it is,” she says.