Major changes to Singapore’s Employment Act (“EA”) took effect on April 1, 2019. First, the EA was expanded to include more employees and offer greater protections. Before April 1, the EA’s core provisions excluded managers and executives earning more than S$4,500, and its Part IV provisions, which provide additional protection to select groups of workmen (i.e. manual laborers) and non-workmen (i.e. general white-collar employees, such as receptionists), excluded non-workmen earning more than S$2,500. Now, the EA’s core provisions apply to all employees (except for seafarers, domestic workers, and public servants who continue to be excluded), and the Part IV provisions were amended to cover non-workmen earning up to S$2,600, and increase the overtime rate payable cap to match the new threshold.
Second, wrongful dismissal claims previously were heard by the Ministry of Manpower, but now will be heard by the Employment Claims Tribunals (“ECT”). The ECT will hear these matters in addition to salary-based claims, thereby eliminating an employee’s need to navigate separate adjudicatory channels when bringing both types of claims against an employer. Additionally, the minimum service period managers and executives must complete before bringing a wrongful dismissal claim for a dismissal with notice, as applicable, was reduced from one year to six months.
Third, the EA now requires that employers accept all medical certificates issued by doctors and dentists registered under the Medical Registration Act and Dental Registration Act, respectively, when issuing reimbursements and granting paid sick leave. This is a significant change from the EA’s previous provision, which required acceptance of certificates from government and company-approved doctors and dentists only. Moreover, employers may, but are not required to, accept certificates from other types of health practitioners as well.
Fourth, employers now may make other deductions, in addition to those already authorized by law, upon the employee’s written consent, which the employee must be allowed to withdraw penalty-free at any time.
Employers who are affected by the amendments and have not made changes to their practices and policies in order to comply with the changes should do so immediately. For more information, the current version of the statute may be accessed here and a guide summarizing the changes, which was released by the Tripartite Alliance for Fair & Progressive Employment Practices and the Ministry of Manpower, may be accessed here.