Review seeks to widen Employment Act coverage

This article is more than 12 months old

They may get paid sick leave, compensation for unfair dismissal under proposed changes to Employment Act

Higher-paid professionals, managers and executives (PMEs) will be entitled to employment terms such as paid sick leave and compensation for wrongful dismissals, under proposed changes to the law.

These rights, spelt out in the core provisions of the Employment Act, are currently only for employees who earn less than $4,500 a month.

But a review of the Act - the first in six years - by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) could see the removal of this salary limit, a move that would extend legal protection to PMEs who earn more.

Before it takes the step, MOM wants people to give their feedback on the proposed changes. They can do so from now until Feb 15.

The review is being undertaken although employees not covered by the Act "already have access to many of these provisions", said MOM in a statement yesterday.

It did not elaborate on how it arrived at that conclusion. It said it does not monitor how many PMEs earning above $4,500 are denied these provisions.

On why the review is thus necessary at this point, the ministry said the Act is reviewed regularly in view of changes in the labour force profile and employment landscape.

Labour MP Patrick Tay told The Straits Times that he regularly sees "a number of" higher-earning PMEs seeking help for employment issues - mainly unfair dismissals.

As they are not covered under the Act, their only recourse is a civil suit or voluntary mediation if they cannot resolve the issue with the employer or through a union.

But with the proposed changes, this group could have their cases heard by the Employment Claims Tribunals, added Mr Tay, who chairs the Government Parliamentary Committee for Manpower.

Another proposed change to the Act is to amend the income cap of specified workers who are entitled to such additional provisions as overtime pay and annual leave.

Now, these are for rank-and-file employees in white-collar jobs - such as clerks, receptionists and retail sales assistants - making up to $2,500 a month and manual workers who earn up to $4,500 a month.

MOM wants views on what would be the appropriate salary thresholds for these workers.

Finally, the ministry is reviewing the way employment disputes are settled.

Dismissal claims and salary issues tend to go together but workers have to go to two different parties to resolve their cases.

This is because statutory and contractual salary-related disputes are heard by the Employment Claims Tribunals while wrongful dismissal claims go before MOM.

But now, the ministry wants to make it "more streamlined for employees and employers".