Response on the ILO Convention Against Violence and Harassment in the Workplace

8 August 2019

It is disappointing that Singapore voted to abstain from the ILO Convention 190, concerning the elimination of violence and harassment in the world of work, due to "concerns about overreach".

According to MOM, Singapore abstained as the convention has proposed measures such as including domestic violence in workplace risk assessment and this would "expand workplace safety and health well beyond the workplace remit".

Concerns of overreach are unfounded as the Convention does not require employers to directly intervene in situations where their employees face domestic violence; it requires countries to recognise the effects of domestic violence and, so far as is reasonably practicable, mitigate its impact in the workplace. Moreover, victims of domestic violence and harassment will have their employment productivity, health and safety adversely affected, and the Convention highlights the need for such victims to be provided much-needed support.

Further, the reasons for abstention ignores our many domestic workers for whom the workplace is their employers' domestic household. For them, there is no divide between a "workplace" and a "domestic" setting. The Convention is meant to cover all sectors, whether public or private; formal and informal, and would have covered domestic workers. Particularly, the Convention protects workers belonging to vulnerable groups that are disproportionately affected by violence and harassment. In Singapore, domestic workers have been recognised in recent Penal Code amendments as a vulnerable group. Adopting this Convention would have gone further to ensure that domestic workers are protected from violence and harassment during the course of their employment, and that they are provided safe conditions for their work.

Stephanie Chok