Amendments to the Singapore Employment Act: The Employment Claims Tribunal – Part 3

This post is the last in our series on the Employment (Amendment) Bill (the “Bill”) which was passed by parliament on 20 November 2018. We discuss the amendments to the Employment Act (Cap. 91) (the “EA”) and how it may affect you, whether you are an employee or an employer. Click here and here if you wish to view our previous posts on the Bill. The Bill can be found here .

A. Statutory Annual Leave
Statutorily provided annual leave is presently only found in Part IV of the EA which applies to a certain group of employees. Annual leave for employees who fall outside of Part IV of the EA will be accorded according to the terms of the respective employment contracts.

The Bill will shift the annual leave provision out of Part IV of the EA into the general section of the EA. As mentioned in our first post, the Bill will cover nearly all employees (save for public servants, domestic workers and seafarers – who are covered under separate legislations) and therefore these employees will soon all be entitled to statutorily provided annual leave.

The method of calculation of the amount of annual leave which an employee is statutorily entitled to remains unchanged and can be found in the new Section 88A.

B. Salary Deductions
The Bill would require employers to obtain their employees’ written consent before making any deductions from their salary for the following:
i. deductions for house accommodation supplied by the employer;
ii. deductions for such amenities and services supplied by the employer
iii. any other deductions which are not identified in the EA

At present, deductions for house accommodation supplied by the employer and deductions for such amenities and services supplied by the employer can be made without the employee’s consent.

The Bill also accords further protection to employees in this respect as it expressly provides that an employee’s written consent in relation to the above deductions may be withdrawn by the employee at any time before the deduction is made by giving a written notice of withdrawal to the employer. Importantly, the employee cannot be penalised by the said withdrawal of consent.

The Bill will remove the ability of an employer to make deductions for the actual cost of meals supplied by the employer at the request of the employee. Further, the Bill will entitle an employer to deduct sums for “unearned employment benefits” which will include things such as annual leave taken in advance. Employers will be pleased to note that the ability for employers to make deductions for salary over-payment(s) remains unchanged.

C. Sick & Hospitalisation Leave
i. Sick Leave
Employers are required under the present EA to accord paid sick leave only if the medical certificate is issued by Government or employer-appointed doctors. This measure was put in place since the enactment of the EA in 1968 to combat frequent absences due to fictitious medical certificates.

Doctors today are registered under the Medical Registration Act (Cap. 174) and are subject to the Singapore Medical Council Ethical Code and Ethical Guidelines. There is therefore no longer a need to distinguish between medical certificates issued by different groups of doctors where paid sick leave is concerned. As such, the Bill provides that employers must recognise medical certificates issued by any registered doctor or dentist.

ii. Hospitalisation Leave
At present, an employee is deemed to be hospitalised for the purposes of determining the hospitalisation leave entitlement under the EA as long as the employee is certified ill enough to require hospitalisation irrespective of actual hospitalisation.

The Bill will change this position so that an employee is only deemed hospitalised for the purposes of determining the hospitalisation leave entitlement under the EA if:

i. warded in an approved hospital; and

ii. upon discharge is certified by a medical practitioner from said approved hospital that the employee is ill enough to need to remain hospitalised during that period or the employee will need to rest during that period in order to recover.

D. Retrenchment
The Bill would require an employer to furnish information on the retrenchment of any employee if required to do so by the Commissioner for Labour and a breach of this obligation will be regarded as a civil contravention such that an errant employer may be subjected to payment of administrative penalties.

This provision is in addition to the current obligation on employers who employ at least 10 employees to inform the MOM if 5 or more employees are retrenched within any 6 month period beginning 1 January 2017.

Please contact Kim Seah at Kim.Seah@incisivelaw.com at  for any employment law related enquiries.

 

Amendments to the Singapore Employment Act: The Employment Claims Tribunal – Part 2

This post is the second in our series on the Employment (Amendment) Bill (the “Bill”) where we discuss the proposed amendments to the Employment Act (Cap. 91) (the “EA”) and how it may affect you, whether you are an employee or an employer. Click here if you wish to view our first post on the Bill. The Bill can be found here.

I. The Employment Claims Tribunal

The Employment Claims Tribunals (“ECT“) was established under the Employment Claims Act 2016 with the aim to provide employees and employers with a speedy and low-cost forum to resolve their salary-related disputes. Parties must first register their claims at the Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management (“TADM”) for compulsory mediation and thereafter, only disputes which remain unresolved after mediation at the TADM may be referred to the ECT.

A total of 1,190 employment claims were filed at the State Courts in the year since it launched the ECT on 1 April 2017. According to the State Courts approximately 78% of the types of claims referred to the ECT involved unpaid or short payment of salary or allowance. Other common claims referred to the ECT include disputes in respect of overtime pay and salary in lieu of notice.

Claims in respect of wrongful dismissal are presently dealt with by the Ministry of Manpower (“MOM”). If an employee feels that his/her dismissal is unfair, he/she may submit a written appeal to the Minister of Manpower who, if satisfied that the dismissal is unfair, may order the employer to either (1) reinstate the employee to the former job; or (2) pay the employee a sum of money as compensation.

The Bill will see employment disputes mechanisms streamlined as the ECT will have an increased jurisdiction to hear both salary and wrongful dismissal related claims.

II. Wider Definition of Dismissal

Another welcome change would be the expansion of the definition “dismiss” in the EA.

Presently, Section 2(1) of the EA defines “dismiss” to mean “the termination of the contract of service of an employee by his employer, with or without notice and whether on the grounds of misconduct or otherwise”.

The Bill will amend this definition to mean “to terminate the contract of service between an employer and an employee at the initiative of the employer, with or without notice and for cause or otherwise, and includes the resignation of an employee if the employee can show, on a 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”.

Upon the Bill coming into effect, an employee’s involuntary resignation will be recognised as a form of dismissal if the employee can satisfy the requirements found in the amended definition of “dismiss”. This will therefore allow an aggrieved employee who has been the subject of constructive dismissal an extra avenue of recourse: the ECT.

Look out for our upcoming posts on the Bill where our discussions will include changes to sick and hospitalisation leave , obtaining consent from the employee when making deductions to salary and more!

Please contact Kim Seah at Kim.Seah@incisivelaw.com for any employment law related enquiries.

 

Amendments to the Singapore Employment Act: How will it affect you? – Part 1

On 2 October 2018, the Parliament of Singapore tabled the Employment (Amendment) Bill (the “Bill”). The Second and Third Reading of the Bill is expected to be sometime in November 2018. If the Bill is passed by the Parliament in its present form and with the President’s assent, the amendments to Employment Act are scheduled to take effect on 1 April 2019.

This post is the first of our series on the Bill where we will discuss the proposed amendments to the Employment Act (Cap. 91) (the “EA”) and how it may affect you, whether you are an employee or an employer. The Bill can be found here.

I. The Big Change
The biggest amendment which the Bill brings would be the removal of the salary cap of SGD4,500/month for professionals, managers and executive (“PMEs)”. This group of PMEs is presently excluded from the EA.
The removal of the salary cap will mean that nearly all employees (save for public servants, domestic workers and seafarers – who are covered under separate legislations) will be entitled to the benefits conferred by the EA.

Employers should conduct a comprehensive review of their employment contracts to ensure that they will be compliant with the EA when the amendments take effect. In a similar vein, employees should familiarise themselves with the statutory benefits conferred by the EA and understand any additional benefits which they may have.

The statutory benefits conferred by the EA include a minimum of 7 days of annual leave (the material section of the EA will be shifted out of Part IV of the EA which only covers certain employees and will be further discussed below), 14 days of paid sick leave and 60 days of paid hospitalisation leave, maternity benefits and childcare leave, and redress for wrongful dismissal.

II. Part IV of the EA- Raising the Salary threshold
The amendments will see the monthly salary cap in respect of non-workmen increased from SGD2,500 to SGD 2,600. This increase will see more non-workmen benefiting from benefits conferred by Part IV of the EA such as stipulated mandatory rest days, maximum hours of work, and statutory overtime pay.

In this regard, it is important to note that the salary cap for calculating overtime pay for non-workmen will also be increased to SGD 2,600.

Employers should take note of these amendments should their employee(s) now fall within Part IV of the EA as there are serious consequences should an employer not adhere to the provisions Part IV of the EA or fail to pay any salary according in to the provisions Part IV of the EA such as a fine not exceeding $5,000 for the first offence, and heavier fines and a possible jail term for subsequent offences.

Look out for our upcoming posts on the Bill where our discussions will include the revamped Employment Claims Tribunal, wrongful dismissal claims;  obtaining consent from the employee when making deductions to salary and more!

Please contact Kim Seah at Kim.Seah@incisivelaw.com for any employment law related enquiries.