Sexual harassment in the workplace
Oral Reply to Parliamentary Questions on sexual harassment in the workplace
Parliamentary Sitting Date: 25 August 2008
Mr Siew Kum Hong: To ask the Prime Minister whether the Government, as the largest employer in Singapore, will set a positive example for other employers by instituting appropriate best practices to address the problem of sexual harassment in the workplace, in light of the recent Research Study on Workplace Sexual Harassment 2008 by the Association of Women for Action & Research which highlighted this growing challenge in workplaces.
Oral Reply (for the Prime Minister) by Mr Teo Chee Hean, Minister in charge of the Civil Service and Minister for Defence:
Every public officer is expected to conduct himself in a manner which upholds the integrity of the Public Service. There are existing processes for public officers to raise complaints and grievances which apply also to sexual harassment in the workplace. An officer who feels that he or she is a victim of sexual harassment at the workplace can report this to the Director of Human Resources or the Permanent Secretary, who may order an investigation into the matter. We will ensure that confidentiality is preserved in such complaints to protect the victim and witnesses. If the officer is a member of a Union, he or she may also bring it up to his union to help him take up the case. An officer can also choose to lodge a Police Report on his or her case at any time.
All complaints reported will be investigated. The Ministry will take disciplinary action against offending officers where a case has been established. For serious cases, the Ministry will refer the case to the Public Service Commission for disciplinary action, which could include dismissal from Service.
Public officers are also subject to the rule of law in Singapore. Like any other member of the public, a public officer is liable to be prosecuted under legislation such as the Penal Code and the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order and Nuisance) Act for sexual harassment.
While the measures in place are adequate, the Public Service Division will do more to educate officers and raise awareness of what constitutes proper conduct and behaviour at the workplace. As some officers may not be aware of the channels available for raising complaints and grievances, we will advise ministries to make sure that staff know of the procedures. This will help ensure that the work environment in the Public Service remains free of harassment and unwelcome behaviour.