On 31 July 2017, the Ministry of Manpower, the National Trades Union Congress, and the Singapore National Employers Federation jointly released the new Tripartite Standard on Employment of Term Contract Employees ("First Standard"). This is the first of a series of five Tripartite Standards ("Standards") that will be rolled out successively in the months ahead. Launched by the Second Minister for Manpower, Mrs Josephine Teo, the Standards identify and recognise progressive employers committed to practices that go beyond what is required under the Employment Act in the key areas of leave benefits, notice period and training.

While not mandatory, the adoption of the Standards will allow employers to distinguish themselves in key specific employment and workplace practices that employees would look for, thereby enhancing the employer's attraction and retention. Further, employers that have signed on to the Standards will take the first step towards creating a fair and progressive workplace.

Benefiting fully from the new Tripartite Standard

Today, basic workplace practices are mandated through laws and supplemented with the Tripartite Guidelines. Employers are also encouraged to implement progressive work practices through Tripartite Advisories. One limitation, however, is that progressive organisations may not be able to differentiate themselves from their counterparts. The Standards aim to fill this gap by recognising employers who have adopted the Standards as having open-minded practices, and improving said employer's talent attraction and retention.

The process for employers to adopt the Standards is straightforward and inexpensive. Employers must first assess if they have met the specifications set out in the relevant Tripartite Standard(s). Thereafter, adoption will be ensured through a simple online registration process, with no upfront documentation required. It should therefore come as no surprise that, to date, 296 employers have already signed on to the Standards as early adopters, including Coca-Cola Singapore Beverages, DBS Bank, Philips Electronics Singapore, Sakae Holdings, and Volkswagen Group Singapore.

Recognising progressive workplace practices

Together with the tripartite partners, the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices ("TAFEP") is working with employers to help them adopt the Standards.

One of the benefits of adopting the Standards is the publicity. Employers who have signed on to the Standards will be publicly recognised on the TAFEP website and in a later phase, the Job Bank. They will be given approval by the tripartite partners to use the "Tripartite Standards" logo in all of their organisation's job advertisements and marketing collaterals. Adopting the Standards also comes with certain learning opportunities, such as invitations to TAFEP's workshops, seminars and conferences, and gaining access to TAFEP's resources and advisory services.

Granting of employment benefits to term contract employees under the First Standard

The First Standard states that, for term contract employees whose duration of their fixed-term employment contracts ("Contracts") exceeds 14 days or more, employers are encouraged to treat these Contracts, which are renewed within one month of expiry of the previous Contract, as a continuous period. Approximately 10 per cent of employees in Singapore, or about 170,000 workers, are on term contract arrangements.

Accordingly, employers would have to grant leave benefits and notice periods that are commensurate with their cumulative length of service. Annual leave, maternity leave and paternity leave are among the statutory leave benefits awarded to those who serve continuous service. Employers who adopt the Standards also pledge to adequately train their employees, as they do with permanent staff, to effectively perform their role through online courses, workshops and on-the-job training.

Conclusion

Given Singapore's strong labour management and tripartite partnership, the TAFEP is confident that fair employment practices will eventually be an integral part of Singapore's human resources system, one which is progressive and contributes to the well-being of all employees. For this reason, if employers comply with the Standards, from the perspective of the tripartite partners, they will be viewed favourably as progressive workplaces of good practice. Employers should therefore be mindful of these new Standards moving forward.