30 October 2019
On 11 October 2019, the Ministry of Manpower (“MOM”) issued a press release on the inaugural Employment Standards Report (“Report”) that was released by MOM and Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management (“TADM”).
The TADM was established on 1 April 2017 and the report highlights the joint efforts by MOM and TADM in improving workplace practices and resolving employment disputes since then. The report details the employment standards situation between 1 April 2017 and 31 December 2018.
Improving workplace practices
The Report notes that MOM will adopt a three-pronged approach of education, rectification and enforcement in addressing employment issues. The key factors in this regard are briefly discussed here.
MOM engages in broad-based outreach and engagement initiatives as well as targeted outreach to foreign employees. Through the Workright initiative, MOM seeks to raise awareness and improve compliance, particularly amongst Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (“SMEs”). MOM also works closely with the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP) to produce guides on the Employment Act requirements for both employers and employees. The Report explains that MOM is addressing specific issues related to foreign employees, introducing mandatory programmes for workers in specific sectors.
Recognising that there are employers, including some SMEs, that have poor employment practices, but are unlikely to re-offend once these practices have been corrected, MOM adopts a rectification approach where such errant employers are required to attend corrective clinics on the Employment Act. These employers will also be required to correct their lapses. MOM further subjects these employers to random follow-up checks.
In addition to inspecting workplaces proactively, MOM and TADM require identified at-risk employers to make salary payment declarations in order to pinpoint salary arrears before they accumulate.
Relying on the new section 21 of the Employment Claims Act, TADM and the Employment Claims Tribunals (ECT) now draw adverse inferences against employers that fail to keep or produce required employment documents, especially in cases concerning downward adjustment of salaries for foreign employees. Mediations in such disputes proceed on the basis of the original declared salaries.
MOM notes the following as some of the key findings in the Report regarding claims and their resolution by TADM between April 2017 and December 2018 as part of its efforts to resolve employment disputes:
- Low incidence of salary claims
- Claims for basic salary constituted the majority of claims
- Effective and expeditious resolution of claims by TADM
- Full salary recovery for the majority of claimants
Call for better employment practices
The Report emphasises the importance of employers recognising employee’s rights and adopting “progressive and responsible” employment practices.
MOM also highlights the need to preserve “healthy industrial relations between employers and employees” by keeping up to date of new workplace issues with new enforcement and dispute management mechanisms, and if necessary, by amending employment laws.
The following materials are available on the MOM website www.mom.gov.sg: