By Kirat Kaur
A young Singapore Punjabi woman has spoken out against an alleged discriminatory hiring practice in the labour market here.
According to a story on Jan 15 on the website of Singapore’s largest daily newspaper The Straits Times (ST), 22-year-old undergraduate Karishma Kaur was allegedly turned away from a job interview at frozen yoghurt chain llaollao last week because she could not speak Mandarin.
Karishma had applied for a part-time role at the Spanish franchise’s West Mall branch but alleged that she did not get an interview because the person at the store, who was later found to be the wife of the store owner and not an employee, could not interview her in English as she only spoke Mandarin.
According to ST, Karishma posted about the incident on her Facebook page and a complaint was lodged with the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (Tafep), which accepts reports and feedback on discriminatory job advertisements and workplace discrimination.
llaollao has apologised to Karishma on its Singapore facebook page, stating: “We hire employees of all ages, races and religions.”
The ST report also stated the company was looking into better employment practices.
Social media responses were mixed, with many criticising the company and some even suggesting they would boycott the chain as a result of this incident.
One commenter on the ST report questioned the labelling of the incident as ‘discriminatory’, stating that as long as language requirements are spelt out, this would avoid misunderstandings in the future, and that the applicant “should not use her facebook platform to slam or should I say, sabotage the yogurt company’s hiring practice” (DISCLOSURE: this writer responded critically to that commenter on the site on Jan 15).
Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower has stated in the past that it expects all employers doing business in Singapore to comply with the Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices.
The guidelines do not make clear if turning an applicant away due to an inability to converse in the same language constitutes a discriminatory hiring practice, but a Tafep spokesperson told ST, “In this case, there was a potential contravention of the guidelines”. – ASIA SAMACHAR (17 Jan 2015)
[ASIA SAMACHAR is an online newspaper for Sikhs in Southeast Asia and surrounding countries. Go to www.asiasamachar.com]