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Aware offers free advisory service on workplace harassment, discrimination

SINGAPORE'S gender equality advocacy group, Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware), has launched a new advisory service to provide comprehensive, confidential and bespoke support to individuals facing harassment and discrimination at work.

The Workplace Harassment and Discrimination Advisory (WDHA) service offers both practical advice and emotional support to anyone aged 18 and up working in Singapore, regardless of nationality and at any stage of their distress.

Individuals can call the WHDA helpline to make an appointment with a specialised adviser, who will walk them through internal and/or external recourse options.

Depending on the case, these recourse options may include approaching their company’s human resource department or the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP), or filing a mediation request with the Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management (TADM).

Counselling or pro-bono legal advice may also be scheduled, depending on the needs of the individual.

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The new service is open to both union and non-union members. It is free to use, although some optional features – such as counselling – carry a low, means-tested fee, Aware said.

As with all of Aware’s services, WHDA is primarily aimed at women. However, men who have experienced gender-based discrimination and harassment – for example, if they were denied the use of flexible work arrangements because caregiving was deemed “not a man’s job” – are welcome to use the service, the advocacy group said.

Types of discrimination faced by female WHDA clients may include gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, disability, age, nationality, family responsibilities and maternity. Harassment may include workplace bullying and workplace sexual harassment, physical and otherwise.

“You don’t have to wait to have been terminated to call WHDA,” said Shailey Hingorani, Aware’s head of research and advocacy. “You don’t even have to be certain that what you’re facing is discrimination or harassment. WHDA will help you make sense of your situation.”

Conversations at WHDA will be kept strictly private, and Aware will never contact the employers.

“In our experience, many employees are not aware of the full range of actions available to them. Some fear being identified or labelled as troublemakers. Some are averse to escalating a situation; they simply wish the mistreatment to stop, so they can continue working,” Ms Hingorani added.

For close to three decades, Aware has been working to address unfair treatment and misconduct in workplaces. It operates a long-running Women’s Helpline, as well as Catalyse Consulting, its corporate advisory and workplace training arm. In 2018, the organisation received a total of 265 calls relating to discrimination and/or harassment at work on the Women’s Helpline.

“WHDA is a natural extension of our long-time efforts in this arena, and complements our existing Women’s Care Centre and Sexual Assault Care Centre suite of services,” Ms Hingorani said on Wednesday.

The WHDA helpline is +65 6950 9191. It is open from 10am to 6pm, Mondays to Fridays.

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