Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Employment Act Changes Take Effect From 1 April 2014

Changes to Employment Act take effect
Channel NewsAsia, 1 Apr 2014

From Tuesday, managers and executives earning a basic monthly salary of up to S$4,500 will get legislative protection against unfair dismissal and sick leave benefits.

The extended provisions under the Employment Act (EA) are among the key changes approved by Parliament last November, and come into effect Tuesday (1 April).


Other changes include raising the salary threshold for non-workmen, such as clerical staff and frontline service staff, to get overtime pay. The salary threshold will be raised from a basic monthly salary of S$2,000 to S$2,500.

The overtime rate payable for non-workmen will be capped at the salary level of S$2,250 to help employers manage costs.

To help companies comply with the EA changes, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), together with its tripartite partners, and the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) and SPRING Singapore, have prepared various forms of assistance to raise public awareness about the EA changes.

Employers may refer to the guidebook on "Changes to the Employment Act 2014" or sign up for seminars and workshops conducted by partners and other training providers.

Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that need more hands-on guidance can seek one-to-one assistance from the SME Centres supported by SPRING.

MOM has also announced that issuance of itemised payslips will be mandatory by 2016.

A set of Tripartite Guidelines was issued on January 13 as a first step to encourage employers to adopt the progressive workplace practice.

MOM said employers can also tap on a range of different tools based on their needs, such as hard copy payslip templates from free payslip template booklets at the SME Centres, and payslip software which can be downloaded from the MOM website from April 20.





MOM will enforce Act professionally

THE headline and lead-in to Tuesday's article ("Bosses who don't pay staff face arrest on the spot") could give rise to the misleading perception that Ministry of Manpower (MOM) officers arrest employers without prior investigations or due care. This is not the case.

First, the Employment Act amendments pertaining to the powers of inspectors are not the "low-profile change" that the article portrayed them to be.

The powers of inspecting officers, alongside enhanced penalties, are to better facilitate the enforcement of the Employment Act provisions.

Prior to the recent Employment Act amendments, similar enforcement powers were already accorded to MOM officers under other workplace legislation, such as the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act.

Second, most employers are cooperative in assisting the MOM's investigations into a salary claim or complaint.

For the minority of employers who are persistently uncooperative, for example, those who wilfully refuse to comply with orders to attend investigation sessions, MOM officers can now arrest them to assist in investigations.

Above all, the MOM will enforce the Employment Act in a professional manner.

Then Yee Thoong
Divisional Director
Labour Relations and Workplaces Division
Ministry of Manpower
ST Forum, 3 Apr 2014





Bosses who don't pay staff face arrest on the spot
MOM training officers in use of handcuffs and police batons
By Toh Yong Chuan, The Straits Times, 1 Apr 2014

BOSSES who do not pay their workers face tougher action from today (1 April).

A low-profile change to the Employment Act kicks in today, giving Manpower Ministry (MOM) officials the power to arrest errant employers on the spot.

This is on top of higher fines that the ministry can hand out to these employers, even without having to haul them to court.

The maximum fine that does not involve court proceedings has jumped to $5,000 from $1,000.

To signal that it means business, the ministry is sending its staff for professional training on the use of handcuffs and police batons.

The Straits Times has learnt that the MOM approached prospective trainers last week to draw up a training programme to enable its officers to be "adequately equipped with the knowledge and skill in executing an arrest".

The training will include "procedures involving the use of handcuffs or flex-cuffs, execution of searches on the accused and the escort of an accused person", said the ministry to trainers in a letter obtained by The Straits Times asking them to propose the fees for their training services.

The officers will also be taught how to protect themselves if someone resists arrest. They are expected to pass both written and practical tests in the next three months.

When contacted, the MOM said the tougher penalties and increased powers for its officers will "facilitate the enforcement" of the enhanced laws.

"Inspecting officers will be adequately trained to enforce the Employment Act in a professional manner," said a spokesman.

The tougher actions against errant firms are among several wide-ranging changes to the Employment Act taking effect today.

The monthly salary ceiling under the labour law has been raised from $2,000 to $2,500, which puts 150,000 more rank-and-file workers under its protection.

A further 300,000 professionals, managers and executives earning up to $4,500 a month are now protected against unfair dismissal and will be able to claim sick leave benefits. Prior to the changes, these workers did not have these rights.

Firms will also have to pay overtime to non-manual workers earning up to $2,500 a month, although the monthly salary used to calculate their overtime pay is capped at $2,250 to help keep labour costs down.

Even as the new rules on overtime pay kicks in, a global survey by recruitment firm Hays has found that one in three employers says their staff are clocking up more overtime work.

Two in five say those extra hours are unpaid.

Hays surveyed 2,600 employers in Asia in the report, released yesterday. It was not clear how many were Singapore-based.

Some firms were surprised when told by The Straits Times that bosses can now be arrested by MOM for not paying workers.

Mr Kurt Wee, president of the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises, said that the use of such powers should only be limited to the minority of errant firms which "blatantly disregard the law".

"Most small and medium enterprises are law-abiding," he added.





NEW LAW AGAINST ERRANT BOSSES
Only repeat offenders face arrest
MOM targeting persistently uncooperative employers who do not pay their staff
By Toh Yong Chuan, The Straits Times, 3 Apr 2014

FIVE months after Parliament changed the law to empower officials to arrest bosses who do not pay their staff, the authorities have clarified that only repeat offenders will be arrested.

The Manpower Ministry told The Straits Times yesterday that it is targeting "employers who are persistently uncooperative".

"MOM officers can now arrest them to assist in investigations," said MOM's divisional director Then Yee Thoong.

His clarification came after this newspaper reported on Tuesday that MOM officials enforcing the Employment Act have new powers to arrest errant bosses on the spot without warrants.

The change was debated in Parliament last November, when Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin said that the powers will allow officials to "arrest any person reasonably believed to be guilty of the failure to pay salary".

But Mr Then made it clear that the ministry will not arrest bosses without prior investigation or due care.

He gave the assurance: "MOM will enforce the Employment Act in a professional manner."

Firms and experts welcomed the ministry's clarification.

"There may be some bosses, especially in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), who may have hit a rough patch and delayed salary payments," said Mr David Leong, managing director of recruitment firm People Worldwide Consulting.

"To be arrested on the spot for running into a bad economic cycle or other business failures would seem harsh."

But some business owners felt that tough action should not be restricted to salary payments.

"I strongly support this new ruling, but I am sad to say there is no ruling to nail bosses who refuse to pay customers on (their) outstanding invoices," said Ms Lilian Tan, a director at home-grown heavy machinery leasing firm HSL Construction and Trading.

"I hope the relevant authorities can look into this issue and help SMEs," she added.

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