SINGAPORE: The National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) has proposed that employment laws be expanded as early as next year to cover the majority of Singapore’s white—collar workforce.
Currently only white—collar workers drawing a monthly salary of S$2,000 or less are covered under Part IV of the Employment Act, which allows employees to claim overtime pay and retrenchment benefits, among other entitlements.
The labour movement wants the distinction between manual and non—manual workers to be abolished and the Employment Act expanded to protect at least half of Singapore’s 630,000 professionals, managers and executives, which form 32 per cent of the country’s resident workforce.
"There’s a serious need to review the Employment Act on a more regular basis," said Patrick Tay, director of NTUC’s Legal Services, adding that the profile of Singapore’s workforce has changed over the years and that labour laws need to be tweaked to keep pace with changes.
He suggested that the Employment Act should be reviewed two to three years after each amendment, citing rising median basic salaries and the changing nature of the work and employment landscape.
NTUC is currently negotiating with the government and employers to raise the S$2,000 salary ceiling, proposing pegging the ceiling at the median of workers’ basic monthly pay.
This figure is expected to fall between S$2,000 and S$4,500.
The union has also called for greater clarity on the number of rest hours shift workers should get, as well as written contracts for low—wage workers to be mandated.
Currently the law allows for low wage workers’ employment contracts to be in either in verbal or written form.
The Singapore National Employers Federation said extending the coverage of the Employment Act to professionals, managers and executives (PMEs) will lead to more rigidity in the labour market.
It said feedback from employers so far indicated that raising the ceiling of the Employment Act coverage will further increase employment and compliance costs as foreign worker policies are being tightened.
Any increase in coverage, it said, should be accompanied by more flexibility in work arrangements and the management of benefits entitlements.
The remarks comes in response to the labour movement’s proposals on Friday to extend employment laws to cover the majority of the white—collar workforce.
In a statement, SNEF Executive Director Koh Juan Kiat said: "Higher in—employment costs, over—protection of benefits and more labour market rigidities are the three main concerns of employers, and especially so if certain EA (Employment Act) provisions are extended to PMEs."
The SNEF said it is consulting employers on the labour movement’s proposals, and will release a full statement next week.
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