The Employment Act (Cap 91) (the Act) is the primary piece of legislation governing employment law in Singapore. The Act sets out minimum standards in relation to certain terms of employment for certain categories of employees. The Act was last reviewed in 2012, and to keep pace with an ever-changing employment landscape and labour force profile, the Ministry of Manpower of Singapore (the MOM) has now invited public feedback on amending certain sections of the Act, with a focus on enhancing the coverage of the Act.

Proposed Review

Extension of "core provisions" protection to all employees

The Act currently sets out certain provisions such as public holiday and sick leave entitlements, payment of salary, allowable deductions, and redress for wrongful dismissal (core provisions) which are statutorily not applicable to managers and executives earning a monthly salary exceeding SGD 4,500. The MOM is now inviting feedback on whether the protection of these core provisions should be extended to all employees.

Additional protection for vulnerable employees

Part IV of the Act (which relates to time-based provisions such as annual leave, hours of work, overtime pay and rest days) currently provides additional protection for non-workmen earning a basic monthly salary of up to SGD 2,500 and workmen earning a monthly salary of up to SGD 4,500. The MOM is now inviting feedback on whether these salary thresholds are still relevant in this current climate.

Enhanced dispute resolution services

At present, salary-related disputes are heard by the Employment Claims Tribunals of Singapore, while wrongful dismissal claims are heard by the MOM. As dismissal related claims are typically salary-related as well, this would mean that the affected employee would need to have his/her claims heard by both the Employment Claims Tribunals and the MOM, which is confusing and time consuming to the relevant parties. The MOM is now inviting feedback on how this dispute resolution process can be integrated or made more streamlined for affected parties.

Conclusion

While the process for the review of the Act is still at a very early stage, it is clear that the Singapore government realises that the employment landscape in Singapore has changed significantly since its last review of the Act in 2012. The scope of the review is also understandably focused on employees but the challenge is of course finding the right balance to ensure that Singapore still remains very much a business-friendly jurisdiction.