30 October 2018

On 2 October 2018, the Employment (Amendment) Bill (“Bill”) was introduced for first reading in Parliament. The Bill seeks to amend the Employment Act and other employment-related legislation to expand and enhance employee protection.

Background

By way of background, the Ministry of Manpower (“MOM”) held a public consultation from 18 January 2018 to 15 February 2018 seeking feedback on three broad areas: the extension of core provisions in the Employment Act to all employees (including managers and executives, regardless of level of salary), the appropriate salary thresholds for workers who qualify for additional protection, and enhancements to the dispute resolution process for employment-related disputes. On 6 March 2018, the Minister for Manpower, Mr Lim Swee Say, announced at the Committee of Supply 2018 that MOM would proceed with its plans to enhance the Employment Act to provide better protection for workers, and was aiming to have the changes implemented by 1 April 2019.

This article highlights some of the key features of the Bill.

Extension of core benefits under the Employment Act to all employees

A key provision of the Bill is the amendment of the definition of “employee” under the Employment Act such that core benefits prescribed under the Employment Act will extend to all employees, except seafarers, domestic workers and public servants, who will continue to be covered separately. Currently, persons employed in managerial or executive positions whose monthly salaries exceed S$4,500 are excluded from the definition of “employee”. Under the Bill, such persons will be regarded as employees for the purposes of the Employment Act.

Such core employee benefits include annual leave, paid public holidays, sick leave and hospitalisation leave, as well as other protection (such as timely payment of salary, maternity protection and childcare leave, and statutory protection against wrongful dismissal).

In addition, all employees will now be automatically transferred pursuant to a sale of business and their existing terms and conditions of employment would be preserved on transfer.

Revised salary thresholds for additional protection on hours of work and overtime pay

The salary thresholds for workers who qualify for additional protection on hours of work and overtime pay, provided for under Part IV of the Employment Act,
will be raised to cover more workers. Currently, Part IV of the Employment Act applies to workmen whose monthly salaries do not exceed S$4,500 and employees (other than workmen) whose monthly salaries do not exceed S$2,500, and does not apply to persons employed in managerial or executive positions.

Under the Bill, the salary cap for non-workmen to whom the additional protection under Part IV of the Employment Act applies will be raised from S$2,500 per month to S$2,600 per month. Persons employed in managerial or executive positions will continue to be excluded from Part IV of the Employment Act.

Further, the salary cap used for the purposes of calculating overtime pay for non-workmen will be revised from S$2,250 per month to S$2,600 per month.

Improvements to the resolution of wrongful dismissal disputes

The Bill also seeks to streamline the dispute resolution process for employees and employers. Currently, unresolved statutory and contractual salary-related disputes are heard by the Employment Claims Tribunals (“ECT”), while wrongful dismissal claims are heard by MOM. Under the Bill, both salary-related disputes and wrongful dismissal claims will be heard by the ECT.

Further, the definition of “dismiss” will be replaced to restate what constitutes a dismissal of an employee. Under the Bill, a dismissal will not be restricted to the termination of a contract of service at the initiative of an employer, with or without notice and for cause or otherwise, but will also include the resignation of an employee if the employee can show, on the balance of probabilities, that the employee did not resign voluntarily but was forced to do so because of any conduct or omission, or course of conduct or omissions, engaged in by the employer.

The Bill also provides that an ECT will be required, when deciding a claim involving a wrongful dismissal dispute, to have regard to the tripartite guidelines on wrongful dismissal.

Other proposed amendments

Other amendments proposed in the Bill include:

  • restating when deductions may be made by an employer from the salary of an employee; 
  • enabling any medical practitioner to certify an employee’s entitlement to paid sick leave; and 
  • providing that the Commissioner for Labour may require an employer to furnish information on the retrenchment of any employee.

Reference materials

The Employment (Amendment) Bill is available on the Parliament website www.parliament.gov.sg, or by clicking here

 

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