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A Fresh Graduate’s Guide to Legal Protections Under the Employment Act

Congratulations on landing your first full-time job! Here’s a concise primer on what you need to know to protect yourself as an employee.

Who is covered under the Employment Act – and who is exempted?

First enacted in 1968, the Employment Act specifies basic protections and working conditions for employees of all stripes. It applies to full-time, part-time, contract, and temp staff, covering all local and foreign employees who are working under a contract of service (as an employee) and not a contract for service (as an independent contractor/freelancer).

However, within the above definition, there are a few groups of people who are exempted from coverage under the Employment Act. These include:

It is illegal to contravene the basic provisions set out in the Employment Act, and failure to comply with the act, and/or direction of an authorised officer, can result in fines or jail time.

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What are the core provisions provided under the Employment Act?

The core provisions spell out a basic level of protection for all employees under the Employment Act in a wide range of areas.

Salary payment: Payment must be made within seven days after the end of the salary period.

Paid annual leave: Between seven to 14 days per year, depending on the length of service.

Paid sick leave: 14 days per year, and up to 60 days per year if hospitalisation is required, including full reimbursement for medical consultation fees.

Paid public holidays: 11 gazetted holidays per year.

Employment records: Employers need to issue written documents on key employment terms, itemised payslips, and maintain proper employment records.

Dismissal: Recourse for wrongful dismissals via Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management (TADM), or Employment Claims Tribunal (ECT) if TADM mediation fails.

Note that while CPF contributions are not covered under the Employment Act, it is mandatory for employers to pay CPF contributions for their Singaporean or Permanent Resident employees earning more than $50 a month.

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Part IV of the Employment Act: Additional protections for workmen and selected employees

On top of the abovementioned core provisions that apply to all employees under the Employment Act, Part IV of the Act gives additional protections to:

  • Workmen earning up to $4,500
  • Non-workmen earning up to $2,600 (up from $2,500 prior to 1 April 2019)

Workmen refer to employees engaged primarily in manual labour, such as cleaners, construction workers, labourers, machine operators, train/bus/lorry/van drivers, and train/bus inspectors.

Part IV provisions specify additional protections for work hours, mandatory rest, and overtime pay:

Normal Hours of Work: 44 hours a week, which can be up to eight hours a day (if employees are required to work more than five days a week) or up to nine hours a day (if employees are required to work five days a week or less).

Overtime Pay: At least 1.5 times the hourly basic rate of work. The hourly rate is (12 months x basic monthly basic salary)/(52 weeks x 44 hours per week).

Rest Day: At least one day per week.

The onus is on employers to comply with all Employment Act regulations

In addition to the basic provisions listed above, there are many regulations within the Employment Act that specify how the basic provisions are to be carried out, such as how employers should compensate workers who need to report to work on Public Holidays.

Employers need to ensure they keep up with the latest employment regulations. They can make use of resources from the Ministry of Manpower, such as approved and subsidised IT solutions to streamline administrative operations, as well as attend workshops, seminars, or one-to-one advisory services for SMEs.

What to do if you believe your employer has breached Employment Act regulations?

Employees can report possible Employment Act violations to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), which enforces the act. Be assured that your identity will be kept strictly confidential.

You can make your report using the MOM e-service (available 24/7), e-mail MOM at workright@mom.gov.sg or call the MOM hotline at 1800 221 9922 (Weekdays from 8.30am to 5.30pm, Saturdays from 8.30am to 1pm; Closed on Sundays and Public Holidays).

Depending on the nature of the Employment Act violation, you may need to provide supporting documents, such as the employment contract, payslips, termination letters, or timesheets.

MOM takes every report seriously, and reports should only be made if you believe a violation has been committed. As a deterrent, MOM publishes a list of employers convicted under the Employment Act.

This article is contributed by DollarsAndSense.

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