The Bill seeking to amend Singapore's Employment Act has undergone its first reading in Parliament, with the second reading scheduled for November. As with any Bill, it will become an Act of Parliament after it has been passed by Parliament and received the President’s assent.
This draft law carries suggestions on expanding the scope of the Employment Act to cover all professionals, managers and executives (PMEs) regardless of their salary levels, restating what constitutes dismissal of an employee, and much more.
Human Resources spoke exclusively to Patrick Tay, member of Parliament and NTUC assistant secretary-general, who had been lobbying for the expansion of the scope of the Employment Act.
He affirms: "I have been lobbying for this expansion of the Employment Act since 2011, and I am glad it has come to fruition. This round of amendments (after the last amendment effective 1/4/2014) is watershed in that the scope of protection of the EA will now cover all workers, including PMEs, without any salary cap (save for Part IV which does not cover PMEs).
"This means more workers will be entitled to employment rights such as minimum days of annual leave, paid sick leave, and recourse for wrongful dismissal. This, along with other amendments, is a step towards greater protection of fellow workers, especially PMEs, who form an increasingly significant portion of the workforce."
Some of the key suggestions proposed in the Employment (Amendment) Bill are shared below:
Restate what constitutes a dismissal of an employee
Under the new definition, a dismissal is not 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 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.
PMEs earning a salary exceeding S$4,500 a month
To enable a person who is employed in a managerial or an executive position, and who receives a salary exceeding $4,500 a month (excluding overtime payments, bonus payments, annual wage supplements, productivity incentive payments and any allowance) to be regarded as an employee for the purposes of the Act - thus, broadening to scope of coverage for such employees under the Act.
Entitlement to paid annual leave to every employee under the Act
Clause 8 repeals section 43, and clause 14 inserts a new section 88A, to extend the statutory entitlement to paid annual leave to every employee to whom the Act applies. The new section 88A also differs from the existing section 43 by empowering the Minister to, by notification in the Gazette, suspend the application of any provision of the new section 88A to any class of employees, when the public interest so requires it.
The option of being given part of a day off on a working day
To extend to every employee to whom the Act applies (other than an individual to whom Part IV applies), and who is required by the employee’s employer to work on a public holiday, the option of being given part of a day off on a working day, instead of a day off in substitution for that holiday, or an extra day’s salary at the basic rate of pay.
Furnish information on the retrenchment of any employee
A new section 96A to provide for an employer to furnish information on the retrenchment of any employee by the employer, if required to do so by the Commissioner.
Additionally, clauses 20 and 21 insert new sections 126A(aa) and 126B(1)(aa), respectively:
- To make a failure, by an employer to whom a notification under the new section 96A applies, to comply with any requirement in the notification concerning the furnishing to the Commissioner of information on the retrenchment of any employee by the employer, a civil contravention under section 126A;
- To enable an authorised officer to issue a contravention notice under section 126B(1) for each occasion of an alleged failure by the employer to comply with that requirement.
Conduct of an employer towards an employee
Clause 22(a) inserts a new section 139(2)(aa) to empower the Minister to make regulations to regulate the conduct of an employer towards an employee, for the purposes of protecting the employee from any employment practice that may adversely affect the wellbeing of the employee.
Photo / Patrick Tay