2 March 2023

On 6 February 2023, the Environmental Public Health (Amendment) Bill (“Bill”) was passed in Parliament. The Bill aims to give effect to policies to strengthen Singapore’s waste management and cleaning sectors. Among other things, the Bill amends the Environmental Public Health Act 1987 (“EPHA”) to implement the Progressive Wage Model (“PWM”) for the waste management sector, revise the cleaning business licensing framework, mandate maintenance of pneumatic waste conveyance systems (“PWCS”), and enable more effective enforcement of the EPHA.

Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment (“Dr Khor”) explained the details of the Bill in her opening and closing second reading speeches which were delivered on 6 February 2023. These details are set out below.

Progressive Wage Model for waste management sector

The Government seeks to uplift resident workers in the waste management sector by implementing the PWM. This follows the Government’s acceptance of the recommendations of the Tripartite Cluster for Waste Management (“TCWM”) in January 2022 to introduce the PWM for the waste collection and materials recovery sub-sectors. This will benefit eligible resident employees, including crew and drivers of waste collection trucks, sorters and machine operators in waste collection and recycling facilities, and supervisors performing certain roles. Dr Khor explained that while employers will not be required to adhere to the PWM for their migrant workers, employers are encouraged to adopt the principles of the PWM for their migrant workers.

Through the licensing regime for companies providing waste collection and materials recovery services, the Bill will give legislative effect to the TCWM recommendations including its proposal for a six-year schedule of wage increases. For example, the entry-level baseline wage for waste collection crew will grow 8.1% annually from S$2,210 per month in 2023 to S$3,260 per month in 2028. There will also be minimum amounts and scheduled increases for overtime payments and annual bonuses. The Bill also introduces a structured career ladder which stipulates higher job roles, higher wages, and minimum training requirements. This will enhance career progression and prepare the industry for higher-value work.

Amendments to the EHPA will require applicants for waste disposal licences and waste collector licences (each a “waste management licence”) to submit a Progressive Wage Plan with their waste management licence application. The Progressive Wage Plan will cover details of the wage components paid to workers.

The Bill introduces new provisions for the making of regulations to impose licence conditions relating to the training of workers and payment of progressive wages. These provisions will enable the imposition of licence conditions to prohibit waste management licensees from deploying individuals for waste management work unless they are their employees or employees of other waste management licensees. This will ensure that all waste management workers can benefit from the PWM wages.

To provide greater clarity and certainty to the industry, a new provision will require the Commissioner for Labour to specify by way of an order the wage-related components for each class of waste management workers under the PWM.

To effectively monitor compliance with licensing conditions including those of the PWM, the Director-General of Public Health and any authorised officers will be empowered to require licensees to produce relevant hardcopy or electronic records (such as wage and training records of the licensees’ workers) for inspection. Dr Khor explained that the National Environment Agency (“NEA”) will conduct regular checks, and impose financial penalties in the event of non-compliance in relation to the applicant’s implementation of the Progressive Wage Plan submitted. In serious cases, the waste management licence may be suspended or revoked.

Revisions to cleaning business licensing framework

The Bill merges key elements of the voluntary Enhanced Clean Mark Accreditation Scheme with the current cleaning business licensing scheme into a single framework. The revised framework will comprise three classes of licences to differentiate cleaning businesses according to their capabilities, as opposed to the current licensing regime which grants the same licence to all cleaning businesses as long as they fulfil a set of common licensing requirements. The new classes of licences will come with a two-year validity, but the application requirements (such as training, paid-up capital, bizSAFE certification and compliance history with certain written laws) for each class of licence will be different. The three classes of licences are as follows:

  • Class 3: The Class 3 licence is non-renewable and retains the same requirements as the current licensing scheme without imposing any new requirements. New cleaning businesses can be granted a Class 3 licence but upon its expiry, must apply for a Class 2 or Class 1 licence to continue operating.
  • Class 2: Class 2 licensees will need to meet the new paid-up capital and bizSAFE certification requirements that are applicable to that class of licensees. The minimum paid-up capital or net worth of S$25,000 ensures that the cleaning businesses are committed and able to pay PWM wages to their cleaners. The bizSAFE certification ensures that cleaning businesses inculcate a culture of workplace safety for its workforce.
  • Class 1: The Class 1 licence is for cleaning businesses that want to further differentiate themselves in terms of capabilities. The Class 1 licence requires licensees to meet a higher minimum paid-up capital or net worth of S$250,000 and to ensure that their cleaning workforce is trained in additional Workforce Skills Qualifications (“WSQ”) or WSQ modules. It provides greater assurance to service buyers that the licensees are equipped with more resources, experience, and capabilities to undertake larger cleaning contracts and are committed to raising the skill level and competencies of their employees.

Dr Khor explained that existing cleaning businesses will be able to transit to the new framework with the Class 3 licence. These cleaning businesses would have sufficient time (at least two years) to grow their capabilities and transit to the higher classes of licence as the revised framework will come into effect on 1 January 2024. To cope with the mandatory PWM wage increases for low-wage workers, cleaning businesses may tap on the Progressive Wage Credit Scheme for transitional wage support.

The Bill will also empower the making of regulations to impose a licence condition to prohibit cleaning business licensees from deploying individuals to carry out cleaning work unless those individuals are their employees or employed by other cleaning business licensees. This will ensure that all cleaners benefit from the licensing framework and resident workers are paid PWM wages. In addition, persons who supply cleaners will be required to be licensed. Such persons include companies which supply manpower to other cleaning businesses or premises owners to carry out cleaning work.

Currently, Government procuring entities are required to engage only cleaning businesses with a Clean Mark Gold Accreditation. With the revised framework incorporating key elements of the Enhanced Clean Mark Accreditation Scheme, NEA will work with the Ministry of Finance to require Government procuring entities to engage only cleaning businesses with a Class 1 licence in the longer term.

Mandating maintenance of pneumatic waste conveyance systems

PWCS are automated and enclosed systems that make waste collection more hygienic and efficient. Currently, building owners are responsible to maintain their waste collection systems, such as refuse lifts, chutes, and chute chambers. The PWCS, which consists of a network of pipes to convey waste by air suction to the refuse bin centre, is an integral part of the waste collection system.

The Bill will repeal and re-enact the relevant provision to make it clear that building owners have the responsibility to maintain their PWCS that serve the buildings and empower the Director-General of Public Health to take enforcement actions against owners who do not maintain, repair, and replace their PWCS. 

Enabling more effective enforcement of EPHA

Currently, the EPHA prohibits the use of a vehicle to dump or dispose of waste in public places, which poses environmental and public health risks and is a blight on public places. The Bill will amend the EPHA to make it an offence to cause or permit such illegal disposal of waste. Dr Khor explained that this is necessary because there have been instances of supervisors improperly instructing their workers to illegally dispose of waste. The amendment will enable enforcement action to be taken against supervisors, and not just the workers.

The Bill also introduces an amendment which extends the one-year limitation period, which prevents NEA from prosecuting an accused person for offences committed under the EPHA unless it is within one year from the date of offence, from one year to three years. This will allow NEA more time to investigate complex cases. As is currently the case, the limitation period will not apply to offences that involve an injury or danger to health that subsists at the date of the complaint. 

Reference materials

The following materials are available on the Singapore Parliament website www.parliament.gov.sg and the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment website www.mse.gov.sg: