Giving an oral answer to Dr Tan Wu Meng’s parliamentary question for an update on the recent termination of multiple staff at Surbana Jurong, Singapore's minister for manpower Lim Swee Say highlighted that “the management and unions have since reached an agreement on an ex-gratia payment.”

He said: “In the case of Surbana Jurong’s recent exercise to terminate the services of 54 employees, the company has acknowledged that the process could have been better managed. The management and unions have since reached an agreement on an ex-gratia payment, which in our view is a fair outcome for the affected employees.”

He also encouraged employers to remember that “exercises should be conducted in a responsible and sensitive manner.”

On that note, minister Lim was also asked by associate professor Daniel Goh Pei Siong on what constitutes due and fair process in terminating employees due to poor performance. Lim answered: “Employers who terminate employment contracts on the ground of poor performance have to be able to substantiate their claim of poor performance.”

The Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices makes it clear that employers who wish to terminate the services of employees on the ground of poor performance are to apply relevant and objective performance criteria,” he added.

He emphasised that the criteria should be made known to all employees; and employers should keep records of staff performance. Not only that, the “decision to terminate the service of an employee should be based on documented poor performance.”

In the sitting, Lim also said that it was the first time he had seen an employer announce affected workers had been poor performers in such a major termination exercise, in all his years in the labour movement and Ministry of Manpower.

"I do not find it acceptable. If the performance of employees are not up to mark, there could be contributing factors on the part of employers as well," he told the House.

He added: "Yes, it may be a poor performance in one organisation. But it does not mean that a person cannot do well in other places."

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As for employees, they can file an appeal to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) should they find themselves in an unfair dismissal. According to Lim, MOM will first mediate. Following that, MOM will conduct an inquiry and require the employer to show cause and produce evidence to justify the termination should the mediation fail.

This remedy is provided under the employment act, as well as the industrial relations act for union members. Adding on, the employer may be ordered to reinstate the employee, or to provide compensation should the employer be unable to substantiate his claim of the employee’s poor performance.

If the employer does not comply with the order, he can be prosecuted.

Photo / 123RF