Unfair Dismissals and The Employment Act

In Singapore, companies have the prerogative to fire at will, but what if you think you were unfairly dismissed?


Are there avenues of redress you can refer to in the event you feel victimised and shouldn’t have lost your job?


Did you know that unfair dismissals, compensation and reinstatement are actually covered in the Employment Act?


What does the Employment Act say about unfair dismissals?


Under the Employment Act, an employee may be dismissed on the grounds of misconduct inconsistent with the fulfillment of the express or implied conditions of his service.


However, the employer should only do this after “due enquiry”.


Usually this will amount to the holding of an inquiry, where the employee is given a chance to present his case.


The person(s) hearing the inquiry should not have any bias or personal interest in the case.


What should dismissed employees do to appeal against unfair dismissals?


An employee who considers himself dismissed without just cause may appeal in writing to the Minister for Manpower to be reinstated in his employment.


If the employee is a union member, the union can file the appeal to the Minister on the member’s behalf, under the Industrial Relations Act.


The appeal must be submitted within one month from the date of dismissal.


The Ministry will inquire into the case and hear from both parties.


What outcomes may occur?


If the Minister is satisfied that the employee was dismissed without just cause, he may direct the employer to reinstate the employee and backpay wages for the period after the dismissal.


Alternatively, he may order the employer to pay an amount of wages as compensation, without reinstatement.


Who is eligible?


According to the Employment Act, you can appeal if:
  • you’re earning not more than $4,500 a month
  • For a manager or executive meeting the first criteria: if you are dismissed with the necessary notice or salary-in-lieu, you must have served your employer for at least 12 months before you can appeal.


If your employer has given notice and terminates you according to your contract, the onus is on you to show proof that the dismissal is unfair.


What should you prepare?


MOM states that you should include the following personal and employment details in your appeal:
  • Subject title
  • Name
  • NRIC
  • Contact or mobile number
  • Personal email
  • Job position
  • Service period (start date to last day of service)
  • Last drawn salary


Also include information about your case:
  • The reasons your employer gave for the dismissal or termination.
  • Why you think you have been unfairly dismissed or terminated (you can cite specific incidents to support your appeal).
  • Whether your employer has given you notice of dismissal or termination.
  • Relevant documents related to your appeal, such as employment contract, letter of termination or warning letters.


This article was contributed by a lawyer to highlight the extent of coverage of the Employment Act with respect to unfair dismissals.
  1. You are contradicting yourself. If an employer has to first of all conduct an inquiry before firing an employee, you don’t call that “Employers can fire at will”!

  2. “If your employer has given notice and terminates you according to your contract, the onus is on you to show proof that the dismissal is unfair.”

    You think MOM really bothers? They will just wayang through the procedures and still side with the employer!

    Here’s my expereience:
    A colleague told my department head that I committed an irresponsible act , and my employer, without questioning me, fired me but gave me one month’s notice pay.

    I brought the matter to MOM, who then arranged for me and my employer to meet up to try to settle the case amicably. A major shouting match erupted when my employer’s representative repeated the accusations about my “irresponsible” attitude. I rebutted them by showing a few letters of compliments written by some customers.

    The meeting ended in a deadlock and both sides were asked to present their case. I submitted my defence three days later, but my employer submitted their case two months later! Not only that, they even hired a lawyer to write 6-page letter for them and invented many other “offences” which I was said to have committed.

    I rebutted them with a 7-page letter, successfully exposing their contradictions and lies in their letter.

    The exchange of letters went on for nearly a year and the MOM suddenly stopped contacting me. I called up the officer in charge of the case and was told that it was still pending. But after receiving no reply for a few more months, I went to see my MP, who wrote a letter to MOM. One month passed, no reply. I went to see my MP again and he wrote another letter. Still no reply from MOM.

    Two months later the then Manpower Minister Lee Boon Yang visited my constituency and I raised the matter with him during the dialogue session, asking him how long does MOM take to investigate cases of unfair dismissal. He answered normally a few weeks, and when I told him my case has dragged on for more than a year, the minister expressed surprise and said he will look into it. After the dialogue session, I tried to hand the letter to the minister personally but was stopped by his bodyguard. I could only hand the letter to my MP the following day.

    This time the MOM finally replied. Relief for me? You bet! In their reply letter, the MOM turned around and accused me of making a false allegation against my employer by saying “Our investigation showed that you were contractually terminated and not dismissed “AS ALLEGED BY YOU”. But they tried to play the nice guy by saying they have negotiated with my employer to pay me another month’s salary-in-lieu but “without admitting that the termination was unlawful”!

    I was furious by the accusation and “compensation” and questioned the MOM’s sense of responsibility. The MOM later responded by saying the minister has found my employer justified in the termination and would not intervene.

    I wrote to the Prime Minister (Goh Chok Tong then) but the letter did not reach him. It was redirected to MOM who replied that since I was contractually terminated and there was no such avenue for contractual termination to seek redress. I rebutted by saying, if the was no such avenue, then the MOM should not have taken up the case in the first place.

    The MOM replied that in some cases of contractual termination, the employee can still seek redress if he feels he was unfairly terminated.

    Ah ha! This means the MOM has indirectly admitted that they made a false accusation against me by saying “Our investigation showed that you were contractually terminated and not dismissed as ALLEGED BY YOU”.

    This loophole caught the PM office clerk and MOM off-guard, then what happened? Both sides never replied to me anymore!

  3. Wow! I just read about your case and i am not surprised that end of the day, MOM will often took Employer sides. The world is really unfair but nevertheless thank you for sharing your stories.

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