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Global employment briefing: Singapore, May 2016

  • Singapore
  • Employment law


Managing workplace harassment: the Tripartite Advisory on managing harassment

Following the enactment of the Protection from Harassment Act 2014 (the “PHA”), the Ministry of Manpower, National Trades Union Congress and Singapore National Employers Federation have jointly issued a Tripartite Advisory on Managing Workplace Harassment (the “Advisory”) to help employers and employees prevent and manage workplace harassment. The Advisory reinforces the scope of the PHA and provides practical guidance on the core values, principles and good practices that should be implemented by organisations to ensure compliance with the PHA. The Advisory also recommends proactive management and remedial actions that employers and affected persons can take if harassment occurs at the workplace.

What amounts to workplace harassment?

Workplace harassment can take different forms, can take place through different modes of communications such as by e-mail, text messaging or social media, and can occur outside of the office space on business trips or client meetings. Examples of behaviour that may be considered harassment are as follows:

  • threatening, abusive or insulting language, comments or other non-verbal gestures
  • cyber bullying
  • sexual harassment
  • stalking

Core Values set out in the Advisory

Employers are recommended to establish a set of core values to guide the way their employees work with clients, with each other and within the organisation. The core values are as follows:

Core values Explanation
Mutual respect Respecting an individual's personal values and beliefs
People-centredness Putting people at the heart of what the organisation does and preventing intimidation at work
Empathy Providing support to colleagues and standing up against workplace harassment
Cultural understanding Building awareness of cultural norms and understanding cultural sensitivities in a diversified workplace

Principles set out in the Advisory

Employers are also encouraged to develop and implement measures to manage harassment at workplace. The Advisory proposes the adoption of the following principles to ensure that the measures implemented by the organisation are effective and practical:

Principles Explanation
Zero tolerance An organisation should make it clear that harassment would not be tolerated and would be dealt with seriously
Leadership commitment The senior management should demonstrate their commitment in establishing a workplace free of harassment by leading the effort and providing the relevant resources
Everyone plays a part Employers, employees and clients/ customers should recognise that they are responsible for promoting a workplace free from harassment
Holistic management An organisation should ensure that its workplace safety and health risk management includes the assessment of harassment and other psychosocial risks
Early prevention An organisation should focus on implementing preventive measures and to recognise any signs of harassment so that immediate measures can be taken at the onset
Confidentiality An organisation should ensure that the identities of the alleged harasser, affected persons as well as the informant be kept confidential unless the organisation assesses that disclosure is necessary for safety reasons
Neutrality An organisation should ensure that any harassment case be handled impartially and independently by neutral parties who have no conflict of interest in the case
Non-retaliation An organisation should ensure that the informant is not victimised by the organisation for whistleblowing

An organisation should ensure that the steps taken to address any acts of harassment are properly documented

Good Practices recommended in the Advisory

Employers are strongly encouraged to consider implementing the following good practices to prevent and respond to harassment that may potentially occur at the workplace:

Good Practices Explanation
Develop a harassment policy An organisation should develop a formal policy which prohibits harassment and also ensures recourse in case of harassment at the workplace. The policy should be regularly reviewed and revised to ensure consistency with the PHA and the Advisory, and at the same time relevant to the workplace in question
Provide information and training on workplace harassment An organisation should provide training to its employees, especially the Human Resource team, line managers and supervisors, to handle any harassment cases
Implement reporting and response procedures An organisation should develop an appropriate set of reporting procedures to handle any potential workplace harassment complaints. These procedures should be made known to all employees

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