Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Payslips could be made mandatory in two years

MOM also issues guidelines to help firms comply with legal requirement
By Joanna Seow, The Straits Times, 14 Jan 2014

The announcement ends a waiting game for employers, who knew the change was in the works but did not know when it would be imposed. Mandatory payslips were kept off the Employment Act changes last November after small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) complained that they would raise administrative costs.

Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin said then that the aim was "to change behaviour in a sustainable way".

Unionists and worker advocate groups welcomed yesterday's announcement. "I'm glad there is a firm commitment on the part of MOM to make it mandatory," said labour MP Zainal Sapari, who called for a timeframe during last year's parliamentary debate on the changes.

"Personally I would have preferred a shorter timeline," he added, but noted that a mandate will help low-wage and vulnerable workers.

Pay disputes sometimes arise months later and workers without payslips have no recourse. Other times, overtime payments are not recorded properly.

NTUC assistant secretary-general Cham Hui Fong said: "This requirement will ensure both worker and employer know exactly how much is paid for work done."

Mr Alex Au, vice-president of Transient Workers Count Too, called the move "long overdue", but added that some employers might exploit a loophole in the system - paying workers a different amount from that on the payslip.

He said: "It would be good if the MOM also required employers to pay through Giro so that what is stated on itemised payslips is actually what is paid."

The MOM also issued guidelines yesterday, aimed at helping businesses "comply when we make it a legal requirement".

The guidelines state that payslips should be given at least once a month.

They also say the slips should include items like a breakdown of all deductions and the days and hours of overtime worked.

The six-page document, which is available on the MOM website, was developed with the NTUC and Singapore National Employers Federation. It includes a template and sample payslip.

The MOM said it is working with the Infocomm Development Authority and SPRING Singapore to provide payslip booklets, downloadable templates and funding support for firms to develop customised systems. These will be ready by April.

Many employers are already issuing payslips, or provide them when requested by workers. But some bosses of micro-SMEs, such as hawkers, may see the process as cumbersome and avoid it.

Mr Kurt Wee, president of the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (ASME), said the timeframe of two years is "quite realistic for full compliance". ASME is developing a kit to distribute to SMEs within the next three months that is likely to include a programmable spreadsheet to produce the necessary documents.

Madam Chia Sai Im, chairman of the People's Park Traders' Association, said many hawkers will find it hard to adapt.

"They are used to paying workers daily or a fixed amount every month, and they don't have an office or an accounts department to help them keep track," she said.

"Two years may seem enough, but you must educate the bosses and let them know the benefits."

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