PMEs, labour experts welcome wider Employment Act coverage

PMEs, labour experts welcome wider Employment Act coverage

Channel NewsAsia·2018-03-07 02:05

File photo of workers in Singapore's Central Business District. (Photo: TODAY)

SINGAPORE: Professionals, managers and executives (PMEs) who will soon be covered under the Employment Act following the removal of the S$4,500 salary cap have welcomed the move.

Some 430,000 more PMEs will benefit, meaning all 720,000 PMEs today are covered under the Employment Act. They make up a third of Singapore's resident workforce.

The Act provides for basic terms and conditions at work, like paid sick leave and compensation for wrongful dismissal.

Some PMEs who will be affected by this announcement said they were unaware that the Act does not cover them currently.

"Obviously it's good that everyone is covered because it should be basic labour rights. It doesn't mean that those who earn more don't need protection,” sales professional Tan Hui Min, 29, told Channel NewsAsia.

“So far I've not encountered any issues at work, but I think if anything, the ability to seek redress for wrongful dismissal is the most important.”

Banker Lee Qi Ming, 26, called the Employment Act a “layer that protects employees’ rights”.

“There is definitely only an upside to this new implementation,” he said. “It’s a one-stop platform to help consolidate legal issues pertaining to employees’ rights. I guess it creates a more inclusive environment for all employees.”

A media professional who only wanted to be known as Mr Mak, 26, said the changes “sound promising” and would benefit a large number of PMEs.

“I look forward to it being implemented, and hopefully benefit myself, in the event that I need to seek redress in the future,” he added.

Lawyer Melissa Kor, 28, said PMEs’ rights are “better defined under the new amendments”. “We also get a more cost and time effective avenue to redress any grievances, because civil court proceedings may become protracted, and mediation depends on the voluntariness of parties,” she added.

EXPERTS REACT

Currently, PMEs not covered under the Act can only seek recourse for workplace grievances like unfair dismissal through a civil suit or voluntary mediation if they cannot resolve the issue with the employer or through a union.

And it is in cases like these that the Employment Act will come in handy, said Singapore University of Social Sciences economist Walter Theseira.

“Expanding the Employment Act to cover more people is very important because the difference is with statutory relief, you don’t have to engage a lawyer,” he told Channel NewsAsia. “You just need to file a complaint with MOM (Ministry of Manpower), and then basically the bulk of the process is being taken care for you.”

This change came about because PMETs today do not occupy as "high of a position than PMETs in years past”, Dr Theseira suggested. “But today, everybody is a PMET, so there has to be something that covers the majority of people who cannot afford to engage a lawyer to handle their contract disputes.”

The change is also timely given that PMEs make up 56 per cent of the local workforce. “In cases where employees need to take their employers to court, having statutory relief will make a big difference to today’s PMETs,” Dr Theseira stated.

The Employment Act was last reviewed in 2012, with its latest amendments coming into effect in 2015.

The changes then included covering PMEs earning up to S$4,500 under the general provisions of the Act, ensuring that the Act “remains relevant and responsive to these changing labour market conditions and trends”, MOM said on its website.

Partner and Employment Practice Head at TSMP Law Corporation Ian Lim welcomed the changes but urged some caution when calling on the Act for employment dismissals.

“The fundamental and far-reaching changes are welcome; it’s indeed high time we relook at our employment legislation to ensure it stays relevant to the rapidly evolving face of work in Singapore,” he said.

“It is important though to be very clear on what constitutes wrongful or unfair dismissal, which will now cover all employees – the last thing we want is to inadvertently go to the other extreme and become one of those places where it’s virtually impossible to fire even a highly negligent or severely underperforming employee without paying hefty compensation.

“It’s important to strike a balance – if Singapore ceases to be an at-will employment jurisdiction and becomes unconducive for business and investment as a result, jobs will necessarily suffer as well.”

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Read full article on Channel NewsAsia

Singapore Employment Policy Government