Dog's life

Is there such thing as employee privacy nowadays? I wonder. Recently I came across an interesting news in a back-dated copy of TODAY. It says: “PARENTS, if you call your child’s teacher at all times of the day, it could constitute harassment.” Apparently, there is a concerned trend that parents now demand for teachers’ mobile phone number and expect teachers to be at their beck and call 24/7 hours. The article cited the response of the Minister of State for Education, Mr Chan Soo Sen, that teachers are not compelled to disclose their personal contact numbers if they feel uncomfortable doing so. In addition, he warned that: “Anyone found guilty of abusing a civil servant could be taken to task in a court of law.”

Now this is interesting – parents being sued for harassing teachers? How about teachers suing school principal for harassing them after working hours? Not that I have heard of such harassment happening in schools but I personally had prior experience with my bosses expecting me and my colleagues to be at his beck and call 24/7 hours. We were to disclose our mobile phone numbers without given an option to say no, and were expected to answer his call whenever he had work issues to discuss regardless of how late into the night it was when everyone desperatly needed a rest after a hard day's work. Doesn’t that constitute harassment?

According to most employment contracts, employees are expected to put in at least 42-44 hours in a week in the office, and that excludes the extra hours put in after office hours and the occasional weekend assignments. It also excludes the time spent on answering office calls when we are home.

I really do think the bosses' incessant calls during the nights and weekends qualify as harassment. I am seriously contemplating bringing this issue up to the constituency MP and have him discussed it in the Parliament with the Minister of Labor. But hey, wait a minute, I am not protected under the Employment Act and the Minister of Labor might not want to address the issue. Even if he would, I can anticipate his response anyway. The Minister would urge Singapore employees to be flexible about working long hours and answering bosses' phone calls at home; we must learn to be competitive so to keep our job and compete with the foreign ‘talents’; and more importantly, we must count our blessings and complain less. On top of that, the Minister would add that for whatever it takes to keep our job, we must not let work compromise our family life and the ability to procreate; we must strive to be an all-rounder and never be quitters.

Do Singapore employees have a case against the employers for harassment? Hmm, maybe not.