Singapore

New foreign workers to undergo settling-in programme

Employers to pay for course that informs workers of their rights, and where to find help

From the second half of next year, new foreign workers will attend a mandatory Settling-in Programme (SIP), similar to that for first-time domestic workers.

This is to help them learn about Singapore's social norms, laws, as well as their employment rights and obligations, Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say said yesterday. It will also inform them about how and where they can seek help.

The move was welcomed by non-governmental organisations that help foreign workers.

They said employers not paying their workers and not compensating them for work injuries continue to be issues here. The new programme will help newcomers know what they are entitled to and where to go for help, they added.

The programme, to be rolled out in phases, will start with first-time foreign workers in the construction sector, Mr Lim said.

Malaysians will be excluded.

He was speaking at a Manpower Ministry (MOM) appreciation dinner for more than 300 partners, including employers, dormitory operators and non-government organisations.

All foreign workers with valid salary claims are also allowed to change employers. Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say

The SIP will be extended progressively to other sectors such as marine, process, as well as manufacturing and services.

About 2,000 foreign workers in the construction sector are expected to attend the SIP each month, according to MOM.

Employers will be responsible for registration and course fees.

The ministry conducted a pilot from June to October last year involving 1,900 workers.

A post-course evaluation found that the workers showed a better work attitude after the course.

Singapore has around 1 million work permit holders, of whom about 700,000 are non-domestic foreign workers.

Mr Lim stressed the need to take strong action against irresponsible employers and employment agencies, adding that Singapore has strengthened its laws and policies in this area over the years.

In 2011, under the Employment Agencies Act, the fine for those operating without a valid licence was raised from a maximum of $5,000 to $80,000 for first-time offenders.

Last year, itemised pay slips and key employment terms in writing also became compulsory, he said.

In April, the Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management was set up to strengthen dispute resolution mechanisms.

In the first six months, it received 2,500 salary claims from foreign workers.

Of the claims that had concluded through mediation, about 90 per cent of the workers recovered their unpaid salaries in full, said Mr Lim.

"All foreign workers with valid salary claims are also allowed to change employers," he added.

In the first nine months of this year, over 99.9 per cent of 11,500 injured workers had their cases successfully resolved, he said.

The remaining cases were not resolved because the employers had failed to buy work injury compensation insurance or were facing financial difficulties, Mr Lim added.

Employment