THE number of layoffs this year is likely to be higher than last year's, but there is no sign that "disguised retrenchments" are on the rise, Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say told Parliament on Monday.
Replying to questions raised by Members of Parliament Seah Kian Peng and Tan Wu Meng, Mr Lim noted that preliminary figures show 11,890 workers were axed in the first nine months of this year, against 8,590 in the same period last year.
With slower economic growth and ongoing restructuring in businesses, he said he expected the number of layoffs this year to top that of last year, when 13,440 workers lost their jobs.
But Mr Lim said there was "no clear evidence" that cases of irresponsible retrenchment have been on the rise. Dr Wu had asked how the Ministry of Manpower plans to address the rising cases of "disguised retrenchments", in which employers avoid treating displaced workers as retrenched to evade paying fair benefits.
Mr Lim said his ministry dealt with 94 cases relating to retrenchment issues last year; of these, 15 appeals came from dismissed workers who complained that they were let go without retrenchment benefits. From January to September this year, the Manpower Minister received 14 appeals out of 63 retrenchment-related cases.
Mr Lim said overall, the cases were a "small proportion" of the total number of layoffs in 2015 and 2016. He said that in all but one appeal, the workers were either not entitled to retrenchment benefits because they had less than two years of service, or that retrenchment benefits were not indicated in their contracts or collective agreements.
For that one appeal, the ministry is helping the workers to resolve the issue, he added.
Under the Employment Act, a worker who has served less than two years is not entitled to retrenchment benefits. For those who have served more than two years, payment of retrenchment benefits is mandatory if it is specified in their individual employment contracts or collective agreements negotiated by their unions.
Asked how the government will continue to ensure "disguised retrenchments" do not happen in the public sector, Mr Lim said: "Public sector agencies have signed the Employers' Pledge of Fair Employment Practices since 2007. They will continue to abide by tripartite guidelines to carry out restructuring and in consultation with public-sector unions."
This article was first published on November 8, 2016.
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