4 things Singaporeans should do to ensure they are not exploited by their employers

4 things Singaporeans should do to ensure they are not exploited by their employers

In Singapore, whoever has the cash holds all the power. It's embarrassing but true that employers in Singapore do not have the best reputation when it comes to treating their employees fairly.

We have that infamous boss who was caught in video slapping his intern, and the unscrupulous construction bosses who collude with doctors so their sometimes seriously injured workers don't get the MC they deserve.

Then there's the recent news report about how tons of local companies have been avoiding paying CPF contributions into their employees' accounts even though it's against the law.

And these are just the stories that have made the news. Ask anybody who's worked for a local company and they'll probably have a tale or two to tell you.

Make sure your own employer isn't screwing you over by taking note of these four points.

Make sure your employer is paying the necessary CPF contributions into your account

The fact that there was $516 million in unpaid CPF funds is not as disturbing as the thought that there's probably a lot more money being withheld, since scores of Singaporeans do not bother checking their CPF accounts or simply have no idea what they're entitled to.

Just to be safe, every local employee should gain access to his CPF account details and check that his employer is paying the right amount of CPF money from day one. Your CPF funds should be credited together with each payment of salary, even for a pro-rated first month at work.

If you're not sure how much you should be getting, here are the figures.

Don't just rely on slips provided by the company. Learn how to log into your own account (the SingPass system is a pain but unavoidable) and monitor your own CPF funds.

Get hold of a copy of your employment contract

Too many employees in Singapore do not ask for a copy of their employment contract. This leads quite often to unpleasant situations when the employee tries to quit or thinks the employer is not making good on some of his promises, and the employer then turns around and refuses to give him a copy of his contract.

Without a copy of the contract, you are basically powerless, and your employer can easily claim you agreed to take on the job as a modern-day slave.

If you sign a contract, you have a right to a copy, so make sure you ask for one, not after one month or one year on the job, but the very day you sign it. Your boss can very easily ask his secretary to make a photocopy for you after signing.

If all else fails, at least take a photo of it with your smartphone. If the company refuses to furnish you with a copy of your own employment contract, you should probably not even be working for them.

Make sure your employer is not breaching the Manpower Act

If you are protected as an employee or workman within the definition of the Manpower Act, make sure your boss does not flout the rules. Many Singaporean employers regularly violate the rules but go unreported because their employees don't know any better.

How do you know if you are protected by the Manpower Act? If you work full-time in the private sector, earn not more than $2,500 and are not a manager or executive, or you are a workman earning not more than $4,500, you're probably covered.

If you are one of the above, that means you're not allowed to work more than 44 hours a week (not counting breaks) without being paid overtime. OT pay should be at 1.5 hours of your basic rate. You are also entitled to at least one rest day every week.

In addition, you should receive at least 11 paid public holidays, meaning if you work on a public holiday you should be paid an extra day's wages or get a day off to replace it.

You should also get paid annual leave if you've worked for more than 3 months. If you've worked at least 1 year at the company, you should get at least 7 days, and this minimum increases by 1 day with each passing year until you hit 14 days in your 8th year of work. If your employer is giving you the bare minimum of 7 days' leave, make sure he increases your leave entitlement after one year.

Make sure your boss keeps his promises

The working world can be quite cut-throat in Singapore, and when bosses are desperate to hire someone cheap they'll often promise the sky, only to later conveniently forget their sweet words.

For instance, I have a friend who was hired during the 2008 recession at a pittance, by a boss who said he'd increase his pay significantly in 12 months' time. Despite my friend's persistent reminders, the raise never came, and he eventually had no choice but to leave the company.

It's easy enough to say you should get everything down in black and white. But in reality, things don't always work that way. And even if you do send your boss an email repeating his promises just so you have things down in writing, in reality you may not be able to legally do anything about it, or if you are it may not be worth your time and money.

Your boss may have promised you a bonus of a certain amount. He may have said he would raise your salary after a certain amount of time, or for those on probation or internships, convert you to a permanent employee. It's up to you to make sure the company makes good on their promises in a timely fashion. If they aren't doing so, chase them. And if they still refuse to fulfil their promises and have no good excuse, then the decision to leave for a more ethical employer is yours to make.

This article first appeared on MoneySmart.

MoneySmart.sg is Singapore’s leading personal finance portal, and aims to help people maximise their money with powerful tools and engaging content.

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