Parliament Introduces Changes That Extend Labour Law to Singapore’s PMETs
More of Singapore’s workers are set to benefit from protection and better working conditions under the Employment Act’s new proposed changes. The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) Singapore on Tuesday (2 Oct) tabled the Employment (Amendment) Act’s first reading in parliament.This changes will covered all Singapore’s PMETs.
The amendment was initially mooted by the Committee of Supply debate in March. Better benefit coverage for workers, including the minimum number of leave days for employees, maternity protection and childcare leave, statutory protection against wrongful dismissal and the timely payment of salaries are among the three primary updates which are included in the Act.
The current Employment Act is only responsible for employees in Singapore who earn $4,500 and above. However, the proposed changes seek to remove the salary cap to ensure that all of Singapore’s PMETs (professionals, managers, executives and technicians) will be covered. The PMETs make up 56% of the country’s workforce, and the removal of the salary cap ensures that an additional 430,000 PMETs will now benefit from the protection offered by the act.
Extended Protection in Place For Half of The Singaporean Workforce
Singapore is currently home to 99% of blue-collar workers who earn $4,500 and white-collar workers with a salary of $2,500. Among those who are exempted from the new changes include domestic workers, public servants and seafarers, because they are protected by other Acts which are in line with the nature of their work. With the proposed changes, the white-collar workers will see their salary cap raised to $2,600, which means there is an extended protection in place for half of the Singaporean workforce.
White-collar workers will also see a revision in their overtime pay, which will be from an upwards of $2,250 to $2,600. This means that 100,000 office workers will be benefitting from this revision.
Employer and employee disputes will also be made into a more simplified process. At this moment, employees need to go to two different parties to resolve employment disputes. Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management (TADM) is responsible for mediating salary-related disputes, and if these continue to remain unresolved, the issue will then be escalated to the Employment Claims Tribunal. MOM handles all wrongful dismissal claims. With the upcoming changes, everything will now be handled by the Employment Claims Tribunal, a one-stop service which is set to manage all employee-related disputes once the changes come into effect.
In regards of workplace dismissal issues, the proposed amendments will redefine dismissals to include the involuntary resignation of employees. It will no longer be only related to termination of the contract by the employer. The employers will be required to obtain written consent from their employees in the event deductions are made from the salary for certain services, including amenities and accommodation. If the employee wishes to withdraw their written consent, they will be allowed to do so without penalties imposed before the deductions are made in some scenarios.
Medical leave will also be covered under the proposed new changes, and the new amendments will allow any medical practitioner to certify that an employee is entitled to paid sick leave. The current act in place only allows certification by medical practitioners which have been appointment by the employer. Hospitals or medical institutions (including community hospitals) will be considered approved and accepted for paid hospital leave as well under the new amendments, as the current act only allows for paid hospitalization leave if the employees are admitted to a national centre or acute hospital only. With the upcoming changes, employees will now be entitled to hospitalization leave once they are directly admitted into a community hospital.
The Commissioner of Labour must be supplied with information from the employers about the retrenchment of any employee as part of the new amendments.
The Employment Act’s new changes will be implemented by April next year. The last time the act was reviewed was in 2012. The next parliament sitting will see the second reading of the Bill taking place.