SINGAPORE : The Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) has said that in reviewing Singapore’s Employment Act (EA), a balance must be struck between enhancing employment protection and improving labour market flexibility and performance in a dynamic economic environment.
It added that how the employment law is to be amended will affect work arrangements, employment costs, benefits and even compensation management.
SNEF said the changes made will send signals that will shape the attitudes of employees and workplace practices over the long term.
It has consulted over 1,000 employers, including small and medium—sized enterprises (SMEs), and has identified five areas for review.
One relates to prescribing the overtime rate for time—based work for non—workman and workman.
SNEF said a third of its members indicate that overtime costs would increase by a median of 5 per cent if the salary ceiling for a non—workman was to be raised by 10 per cent.
SNEF said it supports feedback from employers that the overtime regime should be reviewed and time—off in—lieu of extra hours worked could also be considered to help employers better manage costs, fluctuating business cycles and limited manpower.
Another area for review is the call by the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) to extend the EA coverage to professionals, managers and executives (PMEs).
SNEF said some SMEs feel that legislating minimum benefits for PMEs could be a financial burden as it will raise employment costs.
SNEF is of the view that the clauses to provide for benefits be crafted in employer—friendly terms so that companies, especially SMEs, can manage them flexibly.
A third area for review is the introduction of a minimum service period for reinstatement appeals.
SNEF supports the suggestion from employers that only confirmed employees and those who have been in continuous service for a reasonable length can appeal for reinstatements.
It also proposes that as probation durations vary from company to company, the qualifying service period for unfair dismissal appeals for reinstatements could be set between one and two years.
SNEF said this would give most employers sufficient time to assess the competence and suitability of the employees to confirm them in their jobs. It added that the qualifying period is important if the dismissal protection clause is extended to PMEs, as it usually takes longer to confirm them due to the nature of their jobs.
Fourthly, SNEF said that while it agrees that there is a need to enhance the protection of vulnerable workers, especially low—wage and contract workers, this should not be done at the risk of raising compliance costs too drastically and quickly.
The fifth area for review relates to the productivity of human resource management functions. SNEF said the new statutory benefits may add to costs for progressive employers and staff benefits may have to be re—calibrated.
SNEF said employers feel that they should be given more flexibility in how they manage the benefits for their staff. As an example, SNEF said giving a month’s notice to employees about their shift rosters in a volatile economic environment is not always possible.
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