Singapore Women’s Development White Paper: Why It’s Not Just About Women, But About Creating a Better and Inclusive Workplace

After 160 conversations with nearly 6,000 Singaporeans (both men and women), the Singapore Women’s Development White Paper was released in April 2022. This white paper details the various action plans to better support women in Singapore.

In particular, the workplace is an area where more can be done to support women in creating fairer, more inclusive and progressive workplaces.

Here’s why employers should care about Singapore’s Women’s Development White Paper and how it benefits not just women but all workers.

Read also : Is the gender pay gap real in Singapore?

Enshrining the Tripartite Fair Employment Practices Guidelines in law benefits all workers

While women today enjoy greater job mobility than our previous generations, women still face greater barriers than men in (some) workplaces.

One of the actions recommended by the White Paper is fair work legislation.

This is already underway as Singapore prepares to enshrine the existing Tripartite Fair Employment Practices Guidelines (TGFEP) into law. This will strengthen the TGFEP, as stricter enforcement and penalties could be imposed on unfair workplaces.

This decision has a huge impact on employers and employees, not just women. The move from guidelines to legislation means that current sanctions (for example, banning companies from hiring more foreign workers) could become stricter, such as imposing fines.

Although it is a recommendation of the Singapore Women’s Development White Paper, the decision to legislate the guidelines was announced at the 2021 National Day rally and would benefit all workers.

Read also : Understand the TAFEP Fair Employment Practices Guidelines and the Fair Consideration Framework

Protection when reporting workplace grievances, including harassment and discrimination, extends beyond gender

Another aspect that the white paper recommends as part of workplace equity is strengthening protections when reporting workplace grievances. This includes requiring employers to implement grievance procedures, protecting the confidentiality of those who report workplace harassment or discrimination, and prohibiting retaliation against employees who come forward to report.

This protection extends beyond women who may be unfairly discriminated against (eg due to pregnancy) to other groups who may be discriminated against (eg minority groups, people with disabilities). Arguably, this protection is long overdue because the fear of reprisal is a cause of the under-reporting of many cases of workplace harassment or discrimination.

Flexible Work Arrangements (FWA) Benefit All Employees

The white paper also outlines the action plan to introduce new tripartite FWA guidelines by 2024 to require employers to consider FWA applications fairly and appropriately. This will allow women to participate more fully in the workplace. Today, employers of approximately 880,000 (27%) employees have already adopted the Voluntary Tripartite Standard on Framework Employment Agreements and this will be extended to approximately 40% of all employees by the end of 2022.

While it is helpful to have guidelines and standards to guide employers through implementation and create a common language for employers to use, the truth is that the pandemic has forced the hand of many businesses. According to the White Paper, the proportion of employees who worked in establishments offering at least one FWA on a regular and sustained basis increased from 65% in 2015 to 86% in 2020. 73% of companies that offered FWAs indicated that they were likely to continue to do so after COVID-19.

The prevalence of flexible working arrangements (FWA) is set to continue post-pandemic and companies would be deaf to ignore this shift in worker expectations.

Read also : What flexible working trend would you implement in your office?

Encourage greater use of parental leave rights Benefits both mothers and fathers

While mothers tend to shoulder the heaviest burden of childcare and household care, Singapore’s parental leave entitlements provide for both maternity and paternity leave.

Working mothers are entitled to 16 weeks of government paid maternity leave (GPML) while working fathers are entitled to 2 weeks of paternity leave. The working mother can also share a minimum of one week and up to four weeks of her maternity leave with the working father under the government-paid Shared Parental Leave (SPL) scheme.

To encourage employers to support parental caregiving responsibilities, the public service is taking the lead in encouraging greater use of parental leave. These include actively encouraging eligible public officials to take all of their parental leave within the first year after the birth of their child and extending the consumption period of additional unpaid infant care leave from first year to the first two years of the birth of their child.

Encouraging working fathers to use their leave helps lay the foundations for a more equitable distribution of responsibilities. However, more can be done to support working mothers. However, women disproportionately bear the burden of childcare, even beyond the first years of their child’s birth.

Read also : Government Paid Maternity Leave in Singapore. What employees are entitled to and how much can companies claim.

Develop career mentorship, networking opportunities and training programs Specific to women

The Singapore Women’s Development White Paper also outlines the plan to develop career mentorship, networking opportunities and training programs for women in work and re-entering the workforce.

Examples include the Singapore Women Entrepreneurs Network (SGWEN) of the Singapore Business Federation, a mentoring program of the BoardAgender initiative of the Singapore Council of Women’s Organizations, and the community mentoring program of NTUC U Women and Family. MOM and WSG will also strengthen their partnerships with women’s organizations to increase awareness and support.

This is a positive step in recognizing and closing the gap in professional mentoring and networking opportunities. However, he has to overcome the problem where there are fewer female role models in managerial or managerial positions to guide and mentor.

Supporting greater diversity on company boards Go beyond gender

To help facilitate greater representation of women in leadership positions, listed companies will be required to disclose their board diversity policy from January 1, 2022, in accordance with SGX’s revised listing rules. . Companies will be required to disclose their goals for achieving stipulated diversity (including gender, skills, experience and other relevant aspects of diversity) as well as their action plans and timelines.

The Council for Board Diversity (CBD) will also engage stakeholders on the appointment of women to boards, conduct activities to raise awareness of the importance of board diversity by having women directors and will work with partners to develop a board pipeline. women.

This is positive for both women and other under-represented groups (eg minority groups). Diversity on the board is not just about including candidates of different genders, but also people from different backgrounds and experiences to provide a different perspective and minimize groupthink or the “network of old people” effect. boys”.

Building an inclusive workplace is important, but are we doing enough to support women in the workplace?

According to MOM’s Singapore Adjusted Gender Pay Gap Report, occupational segregation is the main driver of the gender pay gap. This is where women tend to be overrepresented in the lower paid occupations (eg general office clerks) and men in the higher paid occupations (eg business owners and general managers ).

The unpaid cost of care also affects women’s ability to progress in the workplace. Women are at least 4 times more likely than men to be responsible for managing household chores and caregiving. It’s worse in two-earner households where women are five times more likely than men to do so. Women were also almost four times more likely than men to have quit their jobs due to care responsibilities, according to results from the Women’s Development Survey.

While efforts to create an inclusive workplace are important in supporting women, it will take societal change to truly make women equal in the workplace. More support systems need to be put in place to enable women to work without juggling household care needs (or at least being more evenly distributed between the sexes). Societal gender expectations need to be adjusted for girls to seek career paths in traditionally male-dominated industries (which also tend to be better paid) to overcome occupational segregation.

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Mara R. Wilmoth