Mental Health at Workplaces

Budget 2020, Committee of Supply Debates, Ministry of Manpower, 3 Mar 2020

In the public consultation that my team and I conducted on mental health, there were 76 responses referencing issues within workplaces. The focus of the Ministry on mental wellness within workplaces as part of the WSH 2028 vision is prudent and necessary, as also supported by World Health Organisation. Will the Ministry consider issuing an advisory to employers to adopt progressive practices that support their employers’ mental health?

Countries including UK and Canada have legislated the right to Flexible Working Arrangements or FWAs. 21 responses asked for FWAs. One indicated that most treatment options for mental health conditions are only available on weekdays, with their employers unwilling to provide FWAs. [1] Given the Ministry’s strong endorsement for FWAs in caregiver support and Work-Life Grant, will the Ministry consider legislating the right of employees to pursue FWAs, and make explicit publicly that sick leave entitlement can be used for both physical and mental health conditions?

6 responses raised lack of mental health insurance as affecting treatment affordability. One respondent shared the inability to claim insurance for treatment at IMH, as the company insurer does not allow this.[2] The recent Workplace Injury Compensation Act amendment saw the Ministry working with a group of insurance companies to riskpool and ensure affordable premiums for employers. In a similar vein, would the Ministry consider working with insurance companies on providing mental health coverage for employees?

[1] SG Mental Health Matters Public Consultation — Respondent #270

[2] SG Mental Health Matters Public Consultation — Respondent #224

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Anthea Ong is a Nominated Member of Parliament. (A Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) is a Member of the Parliament of Singapore who is appointed by the President. They are not affiliated to any political party and do not represent any constituency. There are currently nine NMPs in Parliament.)

The multi-sector perspective that comes from her ground immersion of 12 years in different capacities helps her translate single-sector issues and ideas across boundaries without alienating any particular community/group. As an entrepreneur and with many years in business leadership, it is innate in her to discuss social issues with the intent of finding solutions, or at least of exploring possibilities. She champions mental health, diversity and inclusion — and climate change in Parliament.

She is also an impact entrepreneur/investor and a passionate mental health advocate, especially in workplace wellbeing. She started WorkWell Leaders Workgroup in May 2018 to bring together top leaders (CXOs, Heads of HR/CSR/D&I) of top employers in Singapore (both public and private) to share, discuss and co-create inclusive practices to promote workplace wellbeing. Anthea is also the founder of Hush TeaBar, Singapore’s 1st silent teabar and a social movement that aims to bring silence, self care and social inclusion into every workplace, every community — with a cup of tea. The Hush Experience is completely led by lovingly-trained Deaf facilitators, supported by a team of Persons with Mental Health Issues (PMHIs).

Follow Anthea Ong on her public page at www.facebook.com/antheaonglaytheng

A full-time human, and part-time everything else.