SINGAPORE - Workplaces and labour laws have to be kept secular to preserve harmony, said the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) on Tuesday, explaining its decision to intervene in a dispute between a church and an employee fired over an adulterous relationship.
It said in a statement: "While each of us will have space to practise our religion, we have to preserve a common secular space for people with other beliefs, and employment is one of these secular spaces. Therefore, our employment legislation has to be secular. "This is the only way all groups in Singapore can live in peace and harmony."
The remarks were the first from the ministry since The Straits Times reported last week that it had ordered the Faith Community Baptist Church (FCBC) to compensate its staff member.
MOM had rapped the church for sacking the woman without sufficient cause, but the church maintained that the dismissal was fair because the woman failed to meet its moral standards and refused to apologise or stop the relationship.
FCBC told The Straits Times on Tuesday night that it had already made the payment. A church staff member said that a cheque for about $7,000 was delivered by hand to MOM on Tuesday with a note that the payment does not prejudice the church's rights under the law. He did not elaborate.
MOM said that it has received the cheque and it plans to pass it to the woman on Wednesday.