Monday 11 November 2013

600 employers denied workers basic rights: MOM

By Tan Qiuyi, Channel NewsAsia, 9 Nov 2013

Some 600 employers have denied workers their basic employment rights in the past year -- such as not paying for overtime work, or not giving their employees medical leave.

More than half of the workers affected were in the low-wage bracket.

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) revealed the figures on Saturday, after stepping up inspections on employers since September last year.

The ministry's efforts targeted low-wage sectors like cleaning, F&B, and retail.

After 3,000 inspections, and interviews with more than 12,000 Singaporeans, the ministry found that not paying for overtime work topped the list of infringements, followed by not giving staff annual or medical leave.

A ministry spokesperson said no prosecutions have been made so far, but investigations are ongoing.

The enforcement efforts helped more than 22,000 Singaporeans -- 13,000 of them in the low-wage bracket.

But these figures could be the tip of the iceberg.

Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin said: "The truth is you'll never be able to catch everyone.

"If you have a system that is in place that will... guarantee that no one will make a mistake, then it's also very difficult to enforce, and very hard too for businesses to operate, and that actually affects jobs.

"So it needs to be a system where the measures are in place, it's reasonable, but when you're caught, we need to enforce the regulations and the law to the full extent of it.

"I sometimes meet people who come to see me, employers who appeal that 'oh this is the first time we are doing this, can you be more lenient?' Well my response is, this is the first time you get caught, not the first time you're doing it."

Mr Tan was speaking at a roadshow at Tampines Mall for the national employment rights protection campaign, WorkRight.

Three more WorkRight roadshows will be held each weekend this month -- at Bishan Junction 8 on November 16, Bukit Batok West Mall on November 24, and Woodlands Civic Centre on November 30.

WorkRight has a dedicated hotline (1800-221-9922) and email address ( for the public to report on errant employers.

A key component of WorkRight is confidentiality. To protect employees, the identity of anyone who files a complaint is kept strictly confidential.

Employers who flout the Employment Act could be fined up to S$10,000 or jailed for up to one year.

But with changes to the law in the making, employers could face heftier penalties in the future.

In October, the Manpower Ministry proposed a minimum fine of S$3,000 for employers who fail to pay salaries for the first time, and S$6,000 for repeat offenders.

The proposed maximum fine for first-time offenders was also raised to S$15,000, and to S$30,000 for repeat offenders.

Inspectors are also expected to be given more powers to investigate and arrest offenders.

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