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Singapore Employment Act Up For Major Rehaul

The Singapore government has released some updates on what citizens should be expecting in the coming year in terms of labor and employment, in lieu of the Singapore Employment Act’s major review. Among these updates were upcoming changes on workers’ medical benefits, the acceptance of more expats in the workforce, more contractual jobs and managerial positions in Singapore’s growing labor pool.

Executive and upper management positions share 32% of Singapore’s local workforce, as realized in a total of 629,400 resident professionals in 2011. The issue with the Employment Act with regard to this cluster though is that there have been neither specific guidelines nor regulations concerning the extent of the power of such professionals in hiring, firing, promoting and bestowing disciplinary actions or rewards on employees.

The Act also does not have any specific rules on professionals who essentially execute the same responsibilities such as accountants, doctors, lawyers, and dentists.

Employment practices have also been evolving since the advent of online work and the influx of foreign workers. The number of contractual workers has been constantly on the rise, and more and more resident workers prefer contractual jobs for the flexibility of work schedule and benefits. This has prompted the Singapore government to update its provisions for the contractual cluster of the labor force.

The government will also revisit the provisions for the grant of remuneration packages and medical benefits of employees. Currently, employers are only legally obliged to reimburse workers who they have employed for three months. This puts newly hired workers on a disadvantage, especially if they rely on a low salary to get by.

Finally, the government is looking into updating the act to include provisions for protecting foreign workers of discrimination due to their ethnicity, nationality, gender and religion.

The Singapore Employment Act, which encompasses the rights of both employer and employee as well as certain regulations, was last reviewed by the Singapore government in 2008. The government decided to review the Act due to Singapore’s fast-changing workforce and labor environment.