On 13 July 2015,the Employment (Amendment) Bill (Bill No. 23/2015) ("the Bill") was tabled and read for the first time in Parliament. According to the Explanatory Statement in the Bill, the Bill seeks to amend the Employment Act ("the Act") for five main purposes,namely:

  1. To require employers to make and keep records of employees (in place of a register of employees and record of workmen), and give a w ritten record of key employment terms and pay slips to employees;
  2. To empower author ised officers to impose administrative penalties for civil contraventions by employers and provide for the enforcement of the payment of adm inistrative penalties by the court;
  3. To allow for disposal of exhibits that are seized during investigations;
  4. To    enhance    the     Minister's     power    to    prescribe    penalties    for contraventions of regulations;and
  5. To make miscellaneous changes for the better administration of the Act.

This article provides a brief overview of some of the key proposed amendments to the Act as mentioned a bove.

  1. Records of employees, key employment terms and pay slips

Records of employees

Currently, s 95(1) of the Act requires employers to prepare and keep a register show ing,amongst others,the name,address,the basic rate of pay and allowances, the amount earned,and the amount of deductions made from the earnings of each employee.

The existing s 95 of the Act will be repealed and under the proposed new s 95, employers will have a wider obligation to make and keep employee records containing the prescribed particulars not only for current employees, but also for former ones.

If the employ er makes or keeps an employee record that is incomplete or inaccurate, he is taken to have failed to comply with the s 95 obligation,even if he did not know that the record was incomplete or inaccurate. Such employee records should also be readily accessible to current and former employees during the period prescribed for keeping the records.

Key employmen t terms

In December 2014, the Ministry of Manpower ("MOM"), Nationa l Trades Union Congress ("NTUC") and Singapore National Employers Federation ("SNEF") jointly released the tr ipartite guidelines on the issuance of key employm ent terms in w riting ("KETs Tripartite Guidelines"). These guidelines w ere introduced as a first step to support good workplace practices. Now, the Bill seeks to make this practice a statutory obligation for employers.

Under the proposed new s 95A,an employer must give to an employee a w ritten record of the employee's key employment terms not later than 14 days of commenceme nt of employment. Such a record may be given to the employee electro nically, via the Internet or by a ny othe r way e.g. in an employee handbook.

"Key employment term" is defined under the proposed new s 95A(7) to mean, "for an employee,... a ny type of term of employment contained in a contract of service between an employer a nd the employee that is prescribed to be a key employment term". On the other hand, the KETs Tripa rtite Guidelines provide a detailed list as follows:

  1. Name of employer
  2. .          Name of employee
  3. Job title and main duties and responsibilities
  4. Date of commencing employment
  5. (Only for employees on fixed-term contract) Duration of employment
  6. Daily working hours,number of working days per w eek and rest day(s)
  7. Sala ry period
  8. Basic salary per sa lary period
  9. Fixed allowances per salary period
  10. Fixed deductions per salary period
  11. (Only if diffe rent f rom salary period) Overtime payment period
  12. Overtime rate of pay
  13. Other sala ry-related components (e.g. bonuses, incentives)
  14. Leave    entitlements     (e .g.   a nnua l    leave outpatient     sick   leave, hospita lisation leave,maternity leav e,childcare leave)
  15. Other medical benefits (e.g. insura nce/ medical, denta l benefits)
  16. Probation period
  17. Notice period for termination of employment initiated by either party

Pay slips

Earlier in January 2014, the MOM, NTUC and SNEF had jointly released the tr ipartite guidelines on the issuance of itemised pay slips (11Pay Slips Tripartite Guidelines"). Under the Pay Slips Tripartite Guidelines, an employer should issue itemised pay slips at least once a month and for a salary period ending in a particula r month, pay slips should be issued w ithin 7 days after the last day of that month. Now, the Bill seeks to make the issuance of pay slips a statutory obligation for employ ers.

Under the proposed new s 96, an employer must give a complete and accurate pay slip to every employee within the time prescribed for giving pay slips. An employer would be in breach of s 96 if he provided an incomplete or inaccurate pay slip to an employee,whether or not the employer knew that the pay slip was incomplete or inaccurate.

  1. Administrative penalties for civil contraventions

Under the proposed new s 126A of the Act,a fa ilure by an employer to comply with the above-mentioned obligations in ss 95, 95A or 96 would be considered a "civil contravention". A new regime on administrative penalties in Part XVA of the Act is proposed, w hich would empower an authorised officer to issue a contravention notice to an employer for each civil contravention relating to a current or former employee. An employer who is issued w ith such a contravention notice is required to pay an administrative penalty as prescribed in the regulatio ns made under the Act, but he has an avenue to request an internal reconside ration of the contravention notice by another a uthorised officer , or to appeal to the High Court.

The proposed amended s 139 of the Act prov ides for the adm inistrativ e penalties for civil contraventions under Part XVA of the Act not to exceed S$1,000 for each occasion of a civil cont ravention, and S$2,000 in the case of a second or subsequent occasion of the civil contravention.

  1. Disposal of exhibits seized during investigations

The proposed new s 106A of the Act provides for the disposa l of documents,articles or things which the Commissioner for labour ("the Commissioner ") or an inspecting officer takes possession of under Part XIII of the Act. Part XIII contains provisions on the powers of the Commissioner and inspecting officers relating to inspection a nd enquiry.

Such exhibits may be disposed pursuant to an order made by the Court during or at the conclusion of any inquiry or trial under the  Criminal Procedure  Code,  or other w ise returned to the owner or reported to a Magistrate.

  1. Minister's enhanced power to prescribe penalties

Currently, s 139(2 )(h) of the Act allows the Minister to prescribe certain pena lties for any contravention of the regulations made under s 139 only. The proposed new s 139(2A ) will replace the existing s 139(2)(h) and seeks to extend the scope of the Minister's power to prescribe penalties for contravention or failure to comply with all regulations,including any regulations made under the Act.

No changes have been proposed to the maximum limit of the fine under the existing s 139(2)(h) i.e. S$5,000 in the case of a first conviction and S$10,000 for a second or subsequent conviction within one yea r after the immediately preceding conviction.

Other proposed amendments

The Bill also proposes other amendments to the Act, w hich include the following:

  1. Section 13(2) of the Act w ill be amended to clarify that an employee is deemed to have broken the employ ee's contract of service if the employee is absent f rom work for more than 2 days continuous ly without prior leave from the employer and:
    1. the employee has no reasona ble excuse for the absence; or
    2. the employee does not inform and does not attempt to inform the employer of the excuse for the absence .
  2. Section 76 of the Act wil l be amended to provide that a female employ ee who has served her employer for a period of at least 3 months before, but need not be immediately before, her delivery will be entitled to pay during maternity leave. Section 77 of the Act will be amended to provide that such payment does not include any day during that period on which she takes no-pay leave.
  3. Section 87A of the Act will be amended to provide that an employee is not entit led to take paid childcare leave on a day that the employee takes no-pay leave .

Conclusion

It is envisaged that the Second Reading of the Bill will provide more information on the reasons for the various proposed amendments to the Act, so as to allow employers and employ ees to better understand the scope of the new statuto ry obligations of employers and the accom pany ing regime on administrative penalties.