SPH adopts guidelines to stamp out bias in job adverts - Jan 18, 2007 (ST)

BackJan 18, 2007

The Straits Times / The Business Times News On SPH

SPH adopts guidelines to stamp out bias in job adverts

Advertisers in its newspapers and websites cannot specify criteria like age, race, religion.

By Ken Kwek
Jan 18, 2007
The Straits Times

JOB advertisements in most newspapers here can no longer include criteria such as age and race, unless there is strong justification for doing so.

Media giant Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) is accepting a suggestion made by an anti-discrimination tripartite group.

SPH announced yesterday that it would be adopting a 'non-discriminatory policy' for those seeking to put up job advertisements in its publications.

It publishes about 20,000 job vacancies each week among its stable of 14 newspapers in the four official languages.

This means that employers advertising a job in the company's newspapers and websites cannot state criteria such as age, race, religion, gender, language and marital status.

Ms Elsie Chua, senior vice-president of SPH Classified Advertisements, said the guidelines are an extension of similar measures in 1999.

Then, the guidelines stated that job advertisements could not specify criteria such as age and race.

Some employers got around this by hinting at these criteria, such as advertising for 'young' rather than 'below-40' workers.

Ms Chua said: 'The new guidelines have been refined further so that, for example, you cannot infer the age through an alternative description such as 'young'.'

She added that if a job specifically requires a young employee or one who has to deal with young people, then the employer 'needs to state the reasons and describe the job more thoroughly'.

To enforce the new rule, Ms Chua said the company would screen advertisements, give advice and help to re-word them if necessary.

The advertisers will be told if something was not allowed or needed to be justified or described more specifically.

She added: 'The company has never had to turn away advertisements in the past, and I don't think it's going to happen in the future.'

The new practice stems from the revised guidelines of the Tripartite Alliance for Fair Employment Practices (Tafep), a group formed last May.

Tafep is headed by Madam Halimah Yacob, MP for Jurong GRC and assistant secretary-general of the National Trades Union Congress, and Mr Bob Tan, vice-president of the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF).

Madam Halimah was pleased that SPH had accepted the new guidelines introduced last September.

'As more companies adopt the guidelines and implement fair employment practices, there will be equal opportunities for job-seekers and companies can select more suitable candidates for jobs,' she said.

Employers interviewed yesterday supported SPH's move, and hoped more companies would adopt similar practices.

SNEF executive director Koh Juan Kiat did not think the new rules were restrictive or would deter employers from advertising in newspapers.

He said: 'No, it will in fact help to educate those who are drafting advertisements to open up their recruitment opportunities.

'They will think more carefully of the qualifications and skills required for the job and this will, in turn, attract a greater number of applications. Employers can then choose talent from this bigger pool.'

Training officer Sharil Mohamad likes the non-discriminatory ad rule.

The 47-year-old was a former marketing executive who struggled to find a full-time job for three years after he was retrenched in 2003.

Now working in a private school, he said: 'It's not going to change every employer's attitude, but it's a start.

'In the past, I felt some ads dismissed potential candidates even before they applied. At least now there won't be any judging of a person right from the outset.'