Wednesday, 21 November 2012

MOM seeks public feedback for Employment Act review

By Toh Yong Chuan, The Straits Times, 20 Nov 2012

THE Government has laid down the key areas it will review in the Employment Act, and wants public feedback on them.

In a public consultation paper published online yesterday, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) signalled that it is prepared to raise the salary bar of the Employment Act to include more workers under the law.

Currently, the law spells out the minimum working conditions for workers earning up to $2,000 each month.

While the MOM did not say how much the salary bar would be raised, it said in the paper that median gross monthly salaries have increased by 25 per cent since the Employment Act was last reviewed in 2008.

Raising the salary bar will allow the Act to "keep pace with salary increases", the MOM added.

Another key issue for the ministry is giving better protection to professionals, managers and executives (PMEs), an area for which the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) has lobbied strongly.

Now, the law allows PMEs earning up to $4,500 a month to get help from labour courts for pay disputes, but the NTUC wants more.

The labour movement said two weeks ago that PMEs should also be protected against unfair dismissal and be given sick leave, which they now have to individually negotiate with their employers.

Agreeing, the MOM said yesterday that "some of the entry-level PMEs do not have strong bargaining positions" and, hence, it is seeking to give them "appropriate additional protection". It did not elaborate on what these measures might be.

Other proposals on the MOM's list include setting a limit on how much employers can deduct from their workers' pay, making pay slips compulsory and giving severance pay to those who have worked less than three years.

While the labour movement appeared to have been successful in getting most of its wish list into the public consultation paper, employers were not left out completely.

Last Friday, the Singapore National Employers Federation called for a balance between protecting workers and giving firms flexibility.

And yesterday, the MOM said that it wants to hear public views on whether firms should be given the leeway to give workers time off instead of overtime pay for work done on public holidays.

The MOM has broken up the Employment Act review into two parts, with the first part ending next year. The second part, which covers more complicated issues, such as contract workers, is slated to start at the end of next year.

Labour MP Patrick Tay told The Straits Times that the second part of the review cannot take too long: "It should not take more than two to three years."

Mr Zainudin Nordin, who chairs the Government Parliamentary Committee for Manpower, felt that the proposed changes will protect low-wage workers while allowing the labour movement to represent more workers, especially the swelling ranks of PMEs.

The public has until Jan 11 next year to provide feedback on the proposed changes at or via e-mail to

One part of the MOM paper yesterday threw up a small surprise. In it, the ministry suggested sparing employers from having to give their workers sick leave or paying for consultation fees when their staff go for cosmetic surgery.

While declining to be drawn into discussing the merits of the idea, Mr Zainudin said with a laugh: "We have to be logical. If there are situations which warrant such treatment, then it may also warrant some understanding from the employers too."

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