Changes to Employment Act: A Big Win for PMEs

 

The announcement of changes to the Employment Act made by Tan Chuan-Jin in Parliament last week is a big win since the hundreds of thousands of workers (about 450k) who were not entitled to protection before can soon have peace of mind.

It makes sense that the Gahmen has taken the bold step to review the Employment Act.

After all, the law should adapt to the realities today, shouldn’t it?

Think about it; Singaporeans are getting more educated. Take a stone and throw it in any direction in Orchard Road and confirm plus chop you’ll strike a university graduate. Many people even say that these days uni grads are like the ‘O’ level-holders of the past!

So with so many graduates out and about, you’re bound to have a huge group of PMEs who are earning a decent salary of 2k and up but are not yet quite there because they haven’t peaked in their careers.

This bunch is typically the fresh grads that are just starting out in their careers. It’s common to hear that these guys ‘must’ clock longer hours at work and basically have no life because it’s a ‘rite of passage’.

Basically, work hard now, then next time can enjoy.

But that’s just a load of nonsense.

Employers can easily exploit the young’uns, make them stay at work till 9 or 10pm every day and say that if they can’t handle it then they’re not competent. How is that reasonable? I’ve seen so many CVs of these up and comers and they literally only stay in their jobs for a year, some even just months.

When I ask them why such short stints, some of them tell me straight in the face that they cannot tahan the long hours. That’s not a terrible reason at all.

I mean, we’re not robots right? We need to recharge and spend time with family and friends. It’s no surprise our younger generations are staying single. Can’t make time for oneself, how to date? How to pak tor?

So anyway, soon employers have to make sure they abide by the rules with the changes to the Employment Act. Most significantly, MoM revised the salary cap for non-workmen from the current S$2,000 to S$2,500 (non-workmen are basically workers who are not doing manual labour).

These non-workmen will receive working hours-related protection, which applies to about 150k workers. Specific to overtime payment, however, the Gahmen is limiting this to non-workmen earning up to $2,250.

This was about the only thing I felt that should have covered PMEs earning up to $2,500. How much can $250 buy you these days in Singapore anyway? So, if a non-workman earns $2,300, the employer would not be required to pay OT to the poor chap slogging it out in the office till the wee hours of the morning. Sucks big time.

PMEs earning up to S$4,500 can rejoice in the fact that they will also enjoy some protections under the Employment Act.

Some 300k of them will receive protections such as sick leave benefits and be safeguarded against unfair dismissal. This is definitely a good move to benefit this group, which does not require basic protections such as right to OT pay, but must still be looked after as they build their careers and, for many of them, new families.

Later this year, MoM also said that it will be looking to protect contract workers and self-employed persons (eg. freelancers), which is probably a considerably late move but hey, better late than never, right?

Many people tend to overlook this group even though they are among the most vulnerable in our workforce.

All in all, I believe these changes – some great and some could have been better – are going to have a positive impact on us, the workers.

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Najib A.

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