Introduction

In the latest developments affecting employment law and practice in Singapore, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) announced on 23 September 2013 the introduction of a  Fair Consideration Framework (FCF) requiring employers to consider Singaporeans first before considering foreigners for professional, managerial and executive (PME) positions.

The key features of the FCF are:

  1.  the introduction of the advertising rule (as described below);
  2.  the   additional   scrutiny   of   firms   which   may   have   discriminatory employment practices; and
  3. the enhancement of employment pass (EP) qualifying criteria.

The advertising rule

One of the key features of the FCF is the advertising rule (Advertising Rule), pursuant to which an employer applying for an employment pass (EP) is required to first advertise its vacancies on a new jobs bank administered by the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA). The advertisement must be open to Singaporeans, comply with the Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices, and be published for at least 14 days. Only small firms with not more than 25 employees and high value jobs remunerated at not less than S$12,000 per month are exempt from the Advertising Rule.

Snapshot of the Advertising Rule

Applies To: Employers submitting new EP applications on or after 1 August 2014.

Exemptions: Small firms (max. 25 employees) or high value jobs (min. monthly salary S$12,000).

Pre-Requisites:

  1. An employer seeking to apply for EPs must have first advertised the relevant vacancy in the WDA jobs bank.
  2. The employer must be satisfied there is no suitably qualified Singaporean available to fill the vacancy.
  3. The period between the closing date of the advertisement and the EP application should not exceed three months.
  4. The employer must indicate the WDA jobs bank advertisement ID in the EP application.

Advertisement guidelines

  1. Must be published on the WDA jobs bank for at least 14 calendar days.
  2.  Must be open to Singaporeans.
  3. Must include the following information: job title, closing date, skills, qualifications, experience, salary range.
  4. Must comply with the Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices laid down by the Tripartite Alliance for Fair Employment Practices (TAFEP).

Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices (TAFEP) – dos and don’ts of job advertisements

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Additional scrutiny of firms which may have discriminatory employment practices

Firms with a disproportionately low ratio of Singaporeans to foreign employees at the PME levels compared to others in their industry or which have had repeated complaints of nationality-based hiring practices may be required by the MOM to provide information such as organisation charts with nationality information, recruitment processes, staff grievance handing procedures, staff progression framework, and plans to develop local staff to take on higher roles or reduce reliance on EP holders. Firms which do not improve their hiring practices may be further required to attest that they will not displace any similarly employed Singaporean within 60 days before or after applying for or renewing EPs, and display a fact sheet containing key information submitted to MOM at their workplace. Recalcitrant firms may also experience greater scrutiny and a longer review period for their EP applications and have their work pass privileges curtailed.

Enhanced EP criteria

The general pre-requisite that the EP applicant must meet the prevailing EP qualifying criteria continues to apply to all employers. The typical requirements for an EP are good educational qualifications and/or work experience, and the ability to meet the qualifying salary. The qualifying salary for EP applications will be raised from S$3,000 presently to S$3,300 from 1 January 2014.

Transitional measures for existing EP holders:

  1. EPs expiring before 1 January 2014 will be eligible for a one-time renewal based on the existing EP qualifying criteria.
  2.  EPs expiring between 1 January 2014 and 30 June 2014 (inclusive) will be eligible for a one-time renewal of up to one year based on the existing EP criteria.
  3. EPs expiring after 30 June 2014 will be subject to the new qualifying criteria.

Phased implementation of the FCF

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Analysis and recommendation

All employers should take note of the increase in EP qualifying criteria from 1 January 2014 and transitional measures valid until 30 June 2014 applicable to firms employing existing EP holders.

Firms should take stock of their ratio of Singaporeans to foreign employees to ensure that the ratio lies within the mean for their industry and ensure that their recruitment advertisements do not inadvertently run afoul of the TAFEP Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices. Firms out-sourcing  recruitment work to head hunters or employment agencies should instruct the latter to adhere to the FCF and TAFEP Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices to protect themselves against allegations of unfair discriminatory employment practices.

In addition, firms with more than 25 employees looking to fill vacancies with a salary range of between S$3,300 but not exceeding S$12,000 per month (typically entry to mid-level PME positions) should take care to adhere to the Advertising Rule from 1 August 2014.