EMPLOYERS looking for practical tips on how to foster harmony among employees of different races and religions can now turn to a new tripartite guide.

Launching the guide yesterday, Manpower Minister Gan Kim Yong encouraged employers to make full use of it, saying it would help them identify social risks which could affect their workforce and business.

He was speaking at a networking event for the businesses and unions cluster of the Community Engagement Programme (CEP), attended by more than 120 business representatives and community leaders.

The CEP was launched by the Government in 2006 to increase bonding between different communities so as to reduce tensions in a crisis.

The businesses and unions cluster is helmed by tripartite partners from the Government, unions and businesses, including the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), the National Trades Union Congress, the Singapore Business Federation (SBF) and the ethnic chambers of commerce.

The 60-page-long CEP Implementation Guide, produced by the cluster partners, is available online on the MOM and CEP websites. It contains checklists and templates which businesses can use to 'kick-start CEP at workplaces'.

New training programmes are also in the works. A course administered by the SBF will be unveiled in the second half of the year - the first time CEP is launching a structured training programme for businesses.

It will teach senior management staff, human resource practitioners and line managers how to implement programmes which enhance harmonious working relations and resilience at their workplaces, said Mr Gan.

For the labour movement, the existing Basic Certification in Industrial Relations course was enhanced with new CEP-related content earlier this month.

The course, which teaches leadership skills and a basic knowledge of trade unionism, is attended by over 400 newly elected and aspiring union leaders each year.

CEP industry networks will also be formed for the hotel, security, financial, transport and other selected sectors. These will allow the cluster to help companies implement CEP more effectively.

Mr Gan also gave an update on the cluster's work over the past five years and stressed its important role in building good relations among a workforce of different races, religions and cultures.

The cluster has reached out to more than 300,000 employers and employees through activities such as visits to the Internal Security Department's heritage centre by key union leaders, briefings and seminars, and cultural festivities.

Separately, more than 250,000 foreign workers have been briefed on Singapore's social norms and the importance of maintaining harmony at the workplace.

'In times of crises, the behaviours and responses of employers, supervisors, union leaders and workers can make a great difference to the outcome,' said Mr Gan.

If crises are poorly managed, they could lead to 'social tension and an unproductive workforce, affecting peace and stability in Singapore', he warned.