Oral Reply to Parliamentary Question on the Public Service's response to TAFEP’s guidelines on mental health declaration

04 February 2020

Oral Reply to Parliamentary Question on the Public Service's response to TAFEP’s guidelines on mental health declaration

Parliamentary Sitting: 4 February 2020

Ms Anthea Ong: To ask the Prime Minister (a) what is the public service's response to the latest TAFEP guideline on mental health declaration as a discriminatory practice; (b) which Government agencies are still asking for this declaration from job applicants; (c) how many applicants who declared their mental health condition have joined the public service and how many have not; and (d) what is the public service's workplace mental health and fair employment strategy in the hiring and support of persons with mental health conditions and the fostering of a mental-health friendly environment for all employees.

Oral Reply by Mr Chan Chun Sing, Minister for Trade & Industry and Minister-in-charge of the Public Service.

Since 1 May 2017, the Singapore Public Service has removed declaration questions on medical health from our public service job application forms. We do not track the number of applicants with mental health conditions who have joined the Public Service.

The Public Service is also committed to providing our officers with an inclusive and mental-health friendly workplace. Our public agencies provide support at different levels to our officers. Alternative work arrangements such as part-time work can be explored between officers with mental health conditions and their supervisors to better manage their condition or recovery. 

The Public Service Division is actively encouraging and facilitating public agencies to provide their officers with access to counselling services and as such 24/7 hotlines and face-to-face counselling are available in the majority of public agencies who have put in place Employee Assistance Programmes. However, we understand that this alone is not enough. We need to establish higher awareness of mental health and a stronger culture of peer support. Therefore, we are promoting wider training of our managers and HR officers to extend appropriate care where necessary. We tap on training programmes, such as the Health Promotion Board’s (HPB’s) Management Training workshop, to equip managers with skills to detect early signs of distress and to support employees in managing them. More than 500 public officers have participated in the HPB workshop so far, and we continue to send more officers to the programme. Several public agencies have also built up a network of officers to provide first-in-line peer support to their colleagues who are in distress. For instance, the National Council of Social Service (NCSS) has a group of Wellness Warriors to provide a listening ear to their colleagues who need one.

Our officers’ overall well-being is important to us. PSD seeks to continually learn, and enhance our initiatives to enhance workplace mental health. Therefore, we welcome and participate in the Workwell Leaders Workgroup, which is a useful platform to learn best practices. The Public Service Division will continue working with our public agencies to strengthen a caring workplace culture in the Public Service.