Industry Insights

How to avoid legal problems when recruiting

Posted on 22/04/2021 by Paula Formantes


Singapore has been clamping down on biased hiring practices. How can HR avoid any trouble?

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) is enforcing stricter practices to stamp out biased hiring practices, including making amendments to the Fair Consideration Framework, increasing scrutiny over recruitment agencies and general employment practices, as well as doling out stiffer penalties for discriminatory employers.

During a Singapore HR & employment law virtual forum organized by Claris True, and attended by HRD, Goh Seow Hui, partner at Bird & Bird LLP advised leaders to put in place a more “rigorous” hiring process to ensure a fairer hiring system and avoid any legal scrutiny by MOM.

This involves closely managing the process right from the start when you’re deciding who you need for the job role in terms of aptitude and culture fit, to keep detailed documentation of your entire candidate assessment process.

“HR hiring practices have got to be a lot more rigorous,” Goh said. “What I mean is the paper trail has got to be a lot more rigorous. [For example] when you put out your advertisement, you [should clearly] state: ‘We’re looking for people with a-b-c-d-e qualifications’. And when you do receive resumes on MyCareersFuture or any other job portal from a local candidate that meets all these requirements, then the real question is, if this person is not selected, there must be some rigour in the thinking process.”

When asked by MOM, and she reminded employers that they will be asked, companies must be able to explain logically, why despite meeting the stated criteria, the organization didn’t hire the perfectly qualified local candidate. Can you clearly show that there was either a better candidate, or there was someone who was a better fit for the company or job role?

She acknowledged that there’s more to hiring someone than just their qualifications, experience, or skills and capabilities. There are qualities that are harder to “put down on paper”, such as attitude, culture fit, and overall demeanor. However, because of the increased scrutiny by MOM, Goh believes HR should put in place structured practices to monitor hiring at their companies.

The experienced employment lawyer said she’s been advising clients to prepare a grid or rubric for the recruitment process so that every hiring manager can document and fill-up the form post-candidate assessment. This may seem tedious to enforce, but it beats being caught off guard when MOM asks the question, “why didn’t you hire the local candidate?”

“It’s now going to be a much tougher process,” she said. “Be prepared from the very start with a very clear paper trail on your hiring process. From the start, be very clear on what exactly is it that you’re looking for [in a candidate], and then be very clear when you’re sifting through CVs.

“We don’t interview everybody right. The first round is usually a sifting of CVs – so [document] why you’re not interviewing this person? [For example] because clearly, this person doesn’t meet certain academic qualifications.

“Then the interview minutes or at least the observations about a candidate at the end of the interview should also be logged. There should be a clear written record of that somewhere because I think there’s a very good chance that companies will be asked [by MOM] so it’s better to be written.”

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