Introduction

The Ministry of Manpower ("MOM") has announced the details of the proposed Employment Claims Tribunal ("ECT"), which is intended to address salary-related employment claims for all workers.

Currently, MOM's labour court (the "Labour Court") provides adjudication services to resolve salary- related claims between employers and employees covered under the Employment Act. However, those who are not covered by the Employment Act (including professionals, managers and executives ("PMEs") earning more than S$4,500 per month) would have to file their claims with the civil courts, which can involve a lengthy and costly process. To provide a more accessible system to resolve salary-related claims more quickly for all employees, MOM announced plans in 2014 to set up an ECT to take over the work of the Labour Court in adjudicating salary-related claims.

In this client update, we discuss the proposed key features of the ECT.

Inclusive Coverage by the ECT

To be inclusive, it is proposed that the ECT handle salary-related claims for all employees (including PMEs) who have an employment contract with their employers, regardless of their job scope and their salary level.

However, currently, public servants, domestic workers and seafarers are not covered under the Employment Act and as such, do not have access to the Labour Court. They will similarly not be able to file claims with the ECT when the ECT is first set up. The ECT may extend its adjudication services to hear claims from these groups of employees at a later date when operations have stabilised.

Types of Claims

It is proposed that the ECT will hear salary-related claims from all employees, including statutory claims provided for in legislation such as the Employment Act, as well as salary-related claims expressly provided in monetary terms in employment contracts.

The ECT will not hear issues related to other workplace grievances (e.g. unfair dismissal and discrimination) as the ECT is meant to be an expeditious mechanism to deal with salary-related claims. Employees will continue to be able to pursue such claims by coming to MOM if they are covered under the Employment Act; or through the civil courts.

Mediation

In order to encourage parties to resolve their differences amicably, claimants must first go through a mediation process before their cases can be heard by the ECT. This mediation will be carried out by MOM or MOM-approved mediators.

Limit on Claims Amount

It is proposed that the amounts for claims that are brought to the ECT be capped at S$20,000 per claim. MOM will allow a higher claims cap of $30,000 for claimants who go through the Tripartite Mediation Framework or MOM conciliation procedures prescribed under the Industrial Relations Act.

Time Limit to File a Claim

To encourage claimants to lodge  their claims early,  it is proposed that the  claim must be  filed for mediation within one year from the date on which the claim arises. If the employment relationship has ended, the claim must be lodged within six months of the end of employment.

Concluding Words

MOM is currently seeking public feedback on the proposed key features of the ECT as outlined above. The consultation exercise will last from 25 February 2016 to 23 March 2016.