Summary

The Singapore Personal Data Protection Act of 2012, Act 26 of 2012 (PDPA) was enacted at the end of 2012 and parts relating to the administration of the PDPA came into force on 2 January 2013. The main data protection rules will take effect in mid-2014. There are also specific exemptions which apply in relation to personal data which has been collected in relation to employment. Penalties for breach of the PDPA can be severe including fines of up to SGD1 million.

Background

The PDPA establishes various rules governing the collection, use, disclosure and care of personal data. It recognises both the rights of individuals to protect their personal data (including rights of access and correction) as well as the needs of organisations to collect, use or disclose personal data for purposes that a reasonable person would consider appropriate in the circumstances.

New overseas transfers provision

Further to our report last year on the specific implications for employers under the Personal Data Protection Bill (see Asia Pacific Employee Relations Newsletter, July 2012), a point of note is the introduction in the PDPA of a new requirement in relation to transfer of personal data overseas. The PDPA requires organisations to ensure that any transfer of personal data outside of Singapore meets the minimum standards prescribed under the PDPA.

This will have an impact on large multinational employers who routinely transfer employee data between entities and third parties in other jurisdictions. However, given that many employers with operations in Europe will already have had to comply with similar (and likely more stringent) provisions under these data protection regimes, the PDPA requirements are unlikely to cause too many problems.

Implications for employers

Unlike many of its European legislative counterparts, the PDPA does not place overly restrictive obstacles in the way of employers carrying out day-to-day employee data processing activities. With a ‘sunrise’ period of up to mid-2014 before the main data protection rules take effect, employers have time to give careful consideration to implementation.

However, data protection shouldn’t drop off the ‘to-do’ list altogether as the penalties for breaches of the PDPA are severe with fines of up to SGD1 million as well as criminal offences for individuals in some cases.

Proposed changes to the Singapore Employment Act

Summary

Employment protections under the Employment Act, Chapter 91 of Singapore (EA) are expected to be extended to a broader category of employees and additional protections have been proposed following a Ministry of Manpower (MOM) public consultation process which will be conducted in two phases. Phase One of the process commenced at the end of 2012 and was concluded in March 2013. Phase Two of the process recently commenced in July 2013 and the MOM has requested for the public's views by 30 October 2013.

Background

The EA applies to all employees in Singapore and prescribes minimum terms and conditions of employment. However, various exclusions apply, the most significant being that the EA generally does not apply to employees in a managerial or executive position (save for limited sections relating primarily to salary payment and only for managers whose monthly earnings do not exceed SGD4,500).

For EA-covered employees, application of the EA varies according to earnings. In particular, Part IV, which is concerned with annual leave, working hours, rest periods and overtime, only applies to those employees who earn less than SGD2,000 per month (or SGD4,500 in respect of manual ‘workmen’).

The EA review is mainly concerned with addressing the increase in the proportion of managers and executives, rising salary levels, as well as evolving employment norms and practices.

Proposed EA Amendments – Phase One

The MOM has proposed to extend the application of Part IV of the EA through an increase in the salary threshold for employees (other than workmen) to SGD2,500 per month.

It is also proposed to extend certain existing EA minimum entitlements and protections (for example, sick leave entitlements and protection against unfair dismissal) to junior managers/executives earning up to SGD4,500 per month. In doing so, MOM has indicated that it will amend the EA to:

  • introduce a service qualification period of one year before which junior managers/executives can seek redress in the case of dismissal with notice; and
  • increase flexibility to provide time-off in lieu for work done on public holidays by junior managers/executives.

Other new rights under the EA which have been proposed include:

  • extending employees’ protection from unauthorized salary deductions, by introducing sub-caps within the existing total cap on salary deductions; and
  • requiring employers to maintain detailed employment records and providing written itemized payslips.

Proposed EA Amendments – Phase Two

The MOM has released a statement on 22 July 2013 seeking public feedback for Phase Two of the EA review, which will focus on:

  • enhancing protection for workers in non-traditional work arrangements such as contract work, outsourced work and freelancers; and
  • introducing additional protection for vulnerable low-wage workers (for example, whether written employment terms and electronic payment of workers' salaries should be made mandatory).

Implications for employers

The changes proposed to the EA are potentially significant and, if passed, will alter the employment landscape in Singapore, particularly in relation to how employers deal with managers and executives earning up to SGD4,500 per month.

New rights in relation to paternity leave and shared parental leave

Summary

Eligible fathers in Singapore with babies who are Singapore citizens born on or after 1 May 2013 are entitled to take one week of paid paternity leave. In addition, they may be able to ‘share’ one week of the mother’s 16 weeks of paid maternity entitlement, subject to eligibility and the mother’s agreement. The provisions relating to paternity leave can be found in the Child Development Co-Savings Act, Chapter 38A of Singapore.

Background

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) announced new rights to paternity leave and shared parental leave on 21 January 2013 as a means of fostering an overall pro-family environment in Singapore and encouraging shared parental responsibility.

Paternity leave

Under the new rules, working fathers including those who are self-employed, are entitled to one week of Government-paid paternity leave for all births provided that:

  • the child is a Singapore Citizen born on or after 1 May 2013;
  • the child’s parents are lawfully married; and
  • the father has completed a continuous period of qualifying service with his employer for at least three calendar months immediately preceding the birth of the child (different rules apply to self-employed fathers).

The paternity leave must be taken within 16 weeks after the birth of the child. Alternatively, it can be taken flexibly (i.e. in a non-continuous manner) within 12 months after the birth, by mutual agreement between the employer and employee.

The one week of paid paternity leave will be funded by the Government and is capped at SGD2,500 including CPF contributions.

Shared parental leave

From 1 May 2013, working fathers can also ‘share’ a week of a working mother’s maternity leave. Under this arrangement, the mother may reduce her leave to 15 weeks and the father may take two weeks of leave (including the one week of paid paternity leave). This new right is subject to working fathers (including those who are self-employed) satisfying the following conditions:

  • the child is a Singapore Citizen born on or after 1 May 2013;
  • the mother qualifies for 16 weeks of Government-paid maternity leave;
  • the child's parents are lawfully married; and
  • the child’s mother agrees to ‘share’ the leave.

Shared parental leave is to be taken as a continuous block within 12 months of the birth of the child. Alternatively, by mutual agreement between the employer and employee, the leave can be taken flexibly within 12 months of the birth of the child.

The one week of shared parental leave will be funded by the Government and is capped at SGD2,500 including CPF contributions.

Implications for employers

Many large multinational employers will already make provision for paternity leave in either the contract of employment or by way of company policy. However, shared parental leave is less commonplace, particularly as it is dependent upon spousal entitlements.

Employers should review their current policies and practices to ensure that they at least comply with minimum standards and have the necessary mechanisms in place to process and verify new leave requests, as well as claim government reimbursements where available.