A total of 645 employers were taken to task by the Manpower Ministry last year for failing to pay workers their salaries.
Of these, 49 were taken to court, four times more than in 2013, new Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say told Parliament yesterday. The rest were given warning letters or advisories.
Mr Lim said his ministry investigates every salary claim and has stepped up its enforcement efforts since 2014. "We take a particularly serious view of employers who wilfully refuse to pay."
The Employment Act, amended last year, imposes heavy penalties on employers who default on the salaries of their workers.
Mandatory minimum and higher maximum fines were also introduced for first-time as well as repeat offenders.
The ministry's officers have been given more enforcement and investigatory powers. They can enter workplaces to carry out inspections and arrest those believed to be guilty of not paying their workers, said Mr Lim.
He was replying to Mr Hri Kumar Nair (Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC) who had asked if the ministry would consider stronger sanctions against employers who fail to pay or wrongfully withhold the wages of their employees.
The labour court, which settles payment disputes between employers and employees, saw about 1,630 cases last year.
In two-thirds of them, the workers got full payment. The rest received partial or no payment because their companies were in financial trouble.
To minimise the number of non-payment cases, the ministry, with its tripartite partners, is looking into ways to "enhance the protection for the workers in a more holistic manner", Mr Lim said.
This article was first published on May 12, 2015.
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