What’s the point of a HR department?

labour force


Johnny, 31 an aerospace engineer is burned out. He works 15 hour days, hasn’t had a proper day out with his wife and son for weeks and has been living on junk food. His health is affected badly and so is his mind.

Fewer employees in the job market has led to unproductive companies spreading work to colleagues. This and the pressure to prove oneself and keep up social expenditures has led to employees like Johnny to put in exceptionally intensive hours to work.

When asked if Johnny had brought up this matter to his HR, Johnny said that it would be of no use. “Because our salary is above the protection limit of the Employment Act, HR doesn’t advice what our rights are and what we can or cannot do”.

Labour laws do not protect managers and executives from putting in excessive hours. This generally means someone who is earning above $4500. In this case, it is up to the HR department to specify clearly in their employee guidebook what a PME can or cannot do.

Here are some common questions many HR departments are not clear about:

  • What are the maximum number of hours you can work?
  • How is work outside of working hours compensated?
  • How are holidays compensated?
  • What are the retrenchment benefits?
  • Is the employee insured? If not, what is the liability of a company in case of accident?
  • What is the redress process needed in case of unfair treatment/ termination?


If these issues are not clear, the only recourse to action is through a civil suit. Not the most ideal outcome any company would want.

I think there is far too little being placed on growing the interests of a worker and looking after his/her wellbeing. Personal and corporate life is not a dichotomy. One clearly affects the other.

HR should be addressing these issues and it doesn’t mean organising a few more “corporate trainings” or “getaways”, it means a lot more than that. For example:

  • Personal development
  • Leave for family matters, to take care of family (separate from the allocated annual leave)
  • Flexibility in allocation of work hours

We must be prepared to invest in our human resource, we don’t have to wait for statutory powers or public policy to tell companies what to do. Companies and their HR department must act in good initiative.

As Labour Chief Lim Swee Say said “In developing our human capital, we must be prepared to nurture and invest in them. Please do not try to look for  a perfect worker. For those of you looking for a perfect worker, there is also no prefect HR”.




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