Connect with us

Business & Career

Fresh Graduate’s Guide To Understanding Your Legal Protections Under The Employment Act

Basic protections apply to all employees in Singapore, with additional protections for rank-and-file workers.


You’ve spent decades of your life in formal education – Primary School Secondary School, and Tertiary Education – and acquiring the qualifications, knowledge, and skills to land the first full-time job of your career.

While our education system has undoubtedly done a good job in helping you land a job, it might not have adequately taught you what you needed to know to protect yourself as an employee.

Here’s a concise primer on the 131-page Employment Act, which specifies basic protections and working conditions for employees of all stripes.

Read Also: Working Adults Guide To Starting An Emergency Fund – And How Much You Should Have In It

Who Is Covered Under The Employment Act – And Who Are Exempted

First enacted in 1968, the Employment Act was most recently amended on 1 April 2019 to cover all local and foreign employees who are working under a contract of service – that is, as an employee, and not a contract for service independent contractor/freelancer. It applies to full-time, part-time, contract, and temp staff.

However, within the above definition, there are a few groups of people who are exempted from coverage under the Employment Act. These include:

– Seafarers
– Domestic workers
– Statutory board employees (public servants)
– Civil servants
– Part-time workers who work less than 35 hours a week (they would be covered by Employment of Part-Time Employees Regulations instead)

It is illegal to contravene the basic provisions set out in the Employment Act, and failure to comply with the act, and/or direction of an authorised officer, can result in fines or jail time.

Prior to 1 April 2019, managers and executives earning a basic salary of more than $4,500 were not covered by the Employment Act.

Note that while CPF contributions are not covered under the Employment Act, it is mandatory for employers to pay CPF contributions for their Singaporean or Permanent Resident employees earning more than $50 a month.

Read Also: Complete Guide To Employer’s CPF Contributions In Singapore

What Are The Core Provisions Provided Under The Employment Act?

The core provisions spell out a basic level of protection for all employees under the Employment Act on a wide range of areas.

Salary Payment: Payment must be made within 7 days after the end of salary period.

Paid Annual Leave: Between 7 to 14 days per year, depending on length of service.

Paid Sick Leave: 14 days per year, and up to 60 days per year if hospitalisation is required, including full reimbursement for medical consultation fees.

Paid Public Holidays: 11 gazetted holidays per year.

Employment Records: Employers need to issue written documents on key employment terms, itemised payslips, and maintain proper employment records.

Dismissal: Recourse for wrongful dismissals via Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management (TADM) or Employment Claims Tribunal (ECT) if TADM mediation fails.

Read Also: Wrongful Dismissal In Singapore: Here Are The Rights You Have As An Employee Under The Law

Part IV Of The Employment Act: Additional Protections For Workmen And Selected Employees

On top of the abovementioned core provisions that apply to all employees under the Employment Act, Part IV of the Act gives additional protections to:

– Workmen earning up to $4,500
– Non-workmen earning up to $2,600 (up from $2,500 prior to 1 April 2019)

Workmen refers to rank-and-file employees engaged primarily in manual labour, such as cleaners, construction workers, labourers, machine operators, train/bus/lorry/van drivers, train/bus inspectors.

Part IV provisions specify additional protections for work hours, mandatory rest, and overtime pay:

Normal Hours of Work: 44 hours a week, which can be up to 8 hours a day (if employees are required to work more than 5 days a week) or up to 9 hours a day (if employees are required to work 5 days or less a week)

Overtime Pay: At least 1.5 times the hourly basic rate of work. The hourly rate is (12 months x basic monthly basic salary)/(52 weeks x 44 hours per week).

Rest Day: At least 1 day per week.

Read Also: 7 High-Paying Jobs In Singapore That Don’t Require A Degree

Onus Is On Employers To Ensure They Comply With All Employment Act Regulations

The above are the basic provisions contained within the Employment Act. In addition, there are many regulations within the Employment Act that specify how the basic provisions are to be carried out, such as how employers should compensate workers who need to report to work on Public Holidays.

Employers need to ensure they are abreast of the latest employment regulations. They can make use of resources from the Ministry of Manpower, such as templates for Key Employment Terms and payslips, links to approved and subsidised IT solutions to streamline administrative operations, as well as attend workshops, seminars, or one-to-one advisory services for SMEs.

Read Also: Guide To Productivity Solutions Grant (PSG) And PSG SkillsFuture Training Subsidy (SFTS)

What To Do If You Believe Your Employer Is In Breach Of Employment Act Regulations

Employees can report possible Employment Act violations to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), which is responsible for enforcement of the act, and be assured that your identity will be kept strictly confidential.

You can make your report using the MOM e-service (available 24/7), e-mail MOM at workright@mom.gov.sg or call the MOM hotline at 1800 221 9922 (Weekdays from 8.30am to 5.30pm, Saturdays from 8.30am to 1pm; Closed on Sundays and Public Holidays).

Depending on the nature of the Employment Act violation, you may need to provide supporting documents, such as the employment contract, payslips, termination letters, or timesheets.

MOM has stated that it takes every report seriously, and reports should only be made if you believe a violation has been committed. As a deterrence, MOM publishes a list of employers convicted under the Employment Act.

DollarsAndSense.sg aims to provide interesting, bite-sized and relevant financial articles.

Learn together with like-minded Singaporeans at the Personal Finance Discussion SG Facebook Group by discussing a range of personal finance topics.

If you have not done so, subscribe to our free e-newsletter to receive exclusive content not available anywhere else.