Key labour law expanded to protect more workers

Key labour law expanded to protect more workers

Bosses will now be required by law to pay workers' salaries on time, and employees cannot be short-changed on benefits such as paid sick leave or be sacked unfairly.


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Here is the speech made in Parliament:

Employment, Parental Leave and Other Measures Bill 2013, Second Reading Speech by Mr Tan Chuan-Jin, Acting Minister for Manpower, 12 November 2013, 4:15 PM, Parliament

Madam Speaker, with your permission may I ask the Clerks to distribute handouts to Members.

Madam Speaker, I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

Background

Madam, the Employment Act (or the EA) is our main labour law that seeks to ensure reasonable labour standards for workers while balancing employers' need to stay competitive, and staying competitive ultimately benefits workers as well, in terms of creating jobs and opportunities. Since the last amendment in 2009, the profile of our labour force has changed; and employment practices have also evolved. The review is therefore timely to ensure that the EA remains relevant.

During the Committee of Supply Debate in March this year, I updated this House on the review of the Employment Act. My Ministry, together with our tripartite partners carried out extensive consultations and the Bill that I am presenting today is the outcome of this review.

The Bill proposes amendments to the Employment Act in three main areas: firstly, to extend better protection to more workers; secondly, accord flexibility to employers in areas where there are practical business concerns; and thirdly, enhance enforcement and compliance with the Employment Act. Let me elaborate on the key amendments. Firstly, on better protection for more workers.

(I) Better protection for more workers

The first set of amendments proposes to extend better protection to more workers and improve employment standards.

Extend Part IV to more non-workmen

Madam, Part IV of the EA provides for working hours, rest days, over-time (OT) payments and other conditions of employment for the more vulnerable employees. Currently, Part IV applies to workmen engaged in manual labour, such as machine operators and cleaners who are earning a basic monthly salary of up to $4,500, as well as non-workmen such as clerks and receptionists, earning a basic monthly salary of up to $2,000. In line with general salary increases over the years, we propose to raise the salary threshold for non-workmen from $2,000 to $2,500. This effectively extends the coverage to benefit about 150,000 junior staff who are not professionals or executives.

Extend more protection to PMEs

Another significant extension of protection is for Professionals, Managers and Executives, or PMEs for short. They now account for 31 per cent of the resident workforce; this is up from 27 per cent ten years ago. As their proportion increases in our workforce, we propose to extend protection for those earning a basic monthly salary of up to $4,500. With more Singaporeans becoming and aspiring to become PMEs, it is timely to extend the more junior ones protection such as those against unfair dismissal and sick leave benefits. The change will benefit approximately 300,000 PMEs.

Improve employment standards and benefits

This Bill will also improve employment standards and benefits in line with the evolving employment landscape.

To protect employees against excessive salary deductions by unscrupulous employers, we will impose a further 25 per cent sub-cap on deductions for accommodation, amenities and services on top of existing safeguards.

Next, for employees currently covered under Part IV of the Act, we will shorten the non-entitlement period to retrenchment benefits from 3 to 2 years to be in line with shorter employment norms.

In addition, we will extend the validity of the collective agreement for employees transferred to a new company after restructuring. This means the unions can continue to represent employees in the new company for 18 months after the date of transfer or until the expiry of the collective agreement, whichever is later. This will provide greater reassurance for affected employees.

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