Some 10 years ago, information wasn’t as readily available and people were less informed about employment practices. In today’s modern world, it is key to understand what you are getting yourself into, be it your job or making important financial commitments. And if you don’t, then you may be putting yourself on the losing end. Thanks to the rapid growth of the internet and wide amount of e-resources now, it’s not too late to start learning about how to protect your rights from being infringed.
Did you know that even as a part-timer or intern, you are entitled to CPF contributions? Are you working on top of your official working hours and being compensated fairly? Does your employment contract include a reasonable termination clause? If your answer to the above questions is no, or you have no idea whether they apply to you, read on.
Welcome to adulthood! If you’re just starting to work, whether for some extra cash so that you can travel during your next school holiday or you’re embarking on your career fresh out of university, you need to know about the CPF system.
The CPF system is a valuable scheme that helps Singaporeans to build up their retirement funds and gain financial security. CPF contributions are mandatory for Singapore citizens and Permanent Residents working in Singapore.
While the scheme is even older than Singapore, not many especially students understand how it works. Or some of you may even be thinking that the CPF only applies to people working full-time jobs.
Well, here’s the truth. The CPF Act mandates that employees, whether working part-time or full-time, are entitled to CPF contributions by their employers as long as they earn more than S$50 a month. If you earn more than S$500, then the employee share will be reduced from your salary as well. The same rules apply if you are doing temporary work or an internship which is not a part of your school’s training programmes. Students who are still in secondary school or junior colleges and working during their scheduled school holidays are not covered however.
It is no secret that Singaporeans are workaholics — Singapore ranks pretty high when comparing work hours with other developed economies (in fact, Singapore topped the list in 2017). The overtime culture has long been inculcated, so much that it’s almost a norm now and in a bid to finish (never-ending) work or deal with presenteeism in the office, employees do not think twice about being compensated for overtime work.
Under the Employment Act, which governs the interests and working conditions of employees, overtime pay is payable if you are:
1) A non-workman earning up to $2,600; or
2) A PMET earning up to $4,500; or
3) A workman earning up to $4,500.
A workman is one that is engaged in manual labour or operates vehicles for the purposes of transporting passengers and excludes any clerical staff or domestic workers. On the other hand, a non-workman refers to an employee who does not satisfy the definitions of a workman.
What constitutes working overtime? The contractual hours of work for full-time employees is 44 hours a week, which works out to 9 hours a day for a 5 day work week and 8, if you work more than 5 days. Any work that your employer wants you to do beyond normal working hours, excluding your breaks, is overtime work. If you are a part-timer, the magic number is anything above 8 hours.
How much are you entitled to? Employers must pay their employees at least 1.5 times the hourly basic rate of pay for overtime. For non-workmen, the hourly rate is capped at S$11.80.
Most companies tend to provide overtime pay in other forms of benefit, such as off-in-lieu, for those who do not qualify under the Employment Act. These benefits make up your compensation package along with your salary and depending on the company, it may be negotiable. Before you take on the job, it’s worth to consider what a fair compensation is and negotiate if you have to.
Terminating Your Contract
A contract typically serves to protect the interests of both parties. Once you sign on the line, it’s akin to saying “I agree to all these terms and conditions laid down”. What many people fail to see are that not everyone is a lawyer by profession and can draft a proper contract.
If you work in a Multi-National Corporation or a bigger company, chances are their employment contracts have gone under the scrutiny of professionals and you have less to worry about. Though, it is still important to read and ensure you fully grasp what the contract entails. For those working in small or traditional companies, there is a higher likelihood that the contracts have been written by laymen or are not comprehensive enough.
Here’s the part where employers tend to abuse: the termination of agreement clause. It is not unusual to have to serve a notice period if you wish to resign, and the Employment Act provides notice period guidelines. What happens if you do not wish to serve out a notice period? In this case, you may pay your employer a sum equal to the salary you would have received during the period of notice. A bigger problem arises when contracts include a clause stipulating that employees are to pay back the company more than what they are liable for (e.g. 3 months of salary upon immediate termination of the agreement).
This term is not covered by the Employment Act and can only be dealt with by the civil court. The above is not an exhaustive example and ultimately it depends on your overall contract. Hence, it is important to ensure that your employment contract abides by MOM’s rules and regulation and fair clauses are in place.
Keep Yourself Informed
So the next time, before you sign off the dotted line on your employment contract or you’re working overtime, make sure that your rights are protected. You will be thankful that you’ve done your due diligence should the day come.
At the end of the day, employees should also remember that it is a two-way street. While employers shouldn’t exploit their employees, employees ought to put in their best efforts and fulfil their responsibilities. Every job will teach you something and be a rewarding experience only if you make the best out of it.
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