20 December 2021
From 15 November 2021 to 15 December 2021, the Ministry of Manpower (“MOM”) conducted a public consultation on “Strengthening Protections for Platform Workers”.
Singapore has seen a rise in recent years of the number of self-employed persons (“SEPs”) who work with platform companies to provide transport and delivery services (“platform workers”). Platform workers currently make up about 3% (or approximately 79,000 persons) of the resident workforce.
Platform workers resemble employees in that they are subject to significant control by platform companies over the jobs they receive and accept, as well as the fee for their services. Yet, they do not have basic employment protections accorded to employees, such as work injury compensation, union representation, and employer contributions to the Central Provident Fund (“CPF”).
In these circumstances, the MOM convened the Advisory Committee on Platform Workers (“Committee”) to look into strengthening protections for platform workers, specifically delivery persons, private-hire car drivers and taxi drivers.
The Committee identified three priority areas to give platform workers a more secure future, namely:
- Improving retirement and housing adequacy: Platform workers, like other SEPs, are required to contribute up to 10.5% of their income to their CPF MediSave Account. This corresponds to the Medisave contribution rates made by employees. However, in the case of employees, the Medisave contribution is made by both the employee and the employer. Platforms, on the other hand, are not required to make contributions for platform workers. As platform workers generally have modest incomes, they are also more likely to need additional support to save for their retirement and housing needs. The Committee sought comments on the extent to which retirement and housing adequacy measures should be aligned between platform workers and employees, the possible ways to improve retirement and housing adequacy of platform workers, and what would be a fair distribution of any additional costs arising from such moves among platform companies, platform workers, and platform users.
- Strengthening financial protection in case of work injury: Platform workers, like other SEPs, are not covered under the Work Injury Compensation Act as they do not have an employment contract. However, they spend a disproportionate amount of time on the roads, putting them at higher risk of accidents and injury. The Committee sought comments on the extent of compensation that may be provided to platform workers for their work injuries and the degree to which this should be aligned with employees under the Work Injury Compensation Act, and the extent to which platforms should be responsible for providing financial protection for work injuries, vis-a-vis platform workers themselves.
- Enhancing representation: As platform workers are considered self-employed, they do not enjoy statutory employment protections and may face difficulties in seeking redress for work and pay related grievances. They are also not allowed to unionise, like other self-employed persons. The Committee sought comments on how associations can be strengthened to play a bigger role in representing platform workers and the option of unionisation, and the areas where associations or unions could represent platform workers.