Sunday, 11 November 2012

Amendments to Employment of Foreign Manpower Act take effect on Nov 9

Channel NewsAsia, 8 Nov 2012

Amendments to the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act (EFMA) will take effect on 9 November.

One of the amendments under the EFMA is a new administrative penalty regime.

A financial penalty will be imposed on administrative infringements. These are EFMA breaches that do not directly harm workers and are not criminal activities outside of the Ministry of Manpower's rules. One example is when an employer does not pay his S-Pass holders their salaries by e-payment modes.

This amendment will allow for quicker and more effective punishment of those who bend the rules without the need for criminal prosecution.

Commissioners for Foreign Manpower have been authorised to impose administrative financial penalties of up to $20,000 per infringement. The Commissioners will be able to debar employers from hiring foreign workers.

Another amendment will help step up enforcement against syndicates and errant employers through the inclusion of new presumption clauses and expansion of the range of MOM's investigatory powers.

One new presumption clause will step up MOM's efforts to crack down on those who submit forged educational certificates for S Pass and EP applications.

The new clause presumes that a person who makes an application for a work pass has knowledge of the information provided in the application that relates to him.

Enhanced investigatory powers will include the power to enter and inspect a premise for the purposes of conducting audits and when there is reasonable belief that there are EFMA breaches.

MOM will also have the power to take video and voice recordings during investigations and use the recordings as evidence in Court. Employers may also be asked to produce all employees, both local and foreign, to assist in investigations.

A third amendment to EFMA relates to the creation of new offences and infringements and higher penalties to act as more effective deterrence.

For example, if foreign workers submit forged educational certificates to qualify for work passes, they could be fined up to $20,000 and/or jailed for up to two years per charge. Employers guilty of bending the rule could be charged with abetment.

A second example is where employers collect monies from foreign workers in consideration for employment, also known as kickbacks. Employers guilty of this offence can be fined up to S$30,000 and/or jailed for up to two years per charge.

MOM said these amendments will strengthen MOM's enforcement capabilities, and ensure compliance with Singapore's work pass rules.

This will ultimately level the playing field for law-abiding employers and ensure that Singaporeans remain at the core of our workforce.

MOM will continue to closely monitor and enforce against errant employers and syndicates that try to gain an unfair advantage by bypassing MOM's rules.

"The act in general is good, (it) cleans up a lot of errant practices and in the process, I think SMEs will also be raising their price to a more realistic level," said Kurt Wee, vice president of the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises.

"So, hopefully big companies and government departments when they issue out contracts, they should also have realistic price expectations, when you ask people to come and tender."
MOM is currently also working on the second tranche of the EFMA review, which will focus on improving the well-being of workers, and ensuring a fair balance of rights and responsibilities between employers and workers.

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