All you need to know about the Employment Claims Tribunals
On 1 April 2017, the State Courts launched the Employment Claims Tribunals (“ECT”) to take over the function of resolving salary-disputes from the Labour Court at the Ministry of Manpower. Disputes pertaining to transfer of employment under section 18A of the Employment Act (Cap 91, 2009 Rev Ed), claims for workmen’s compensation and claims for non-salary related disputes will continue to be heard at the Labour Court. The ECT thus provides a similar platform to the Small Claims Tribunals where efficiency and low-cost in resolving disputes are the main objectives.
This article explores:
- the jurisdiction of the ECT;
- types of claims that fall outside the jurisdiction of the ECT;
- powers of the ECT;
- implications for businesses; and
- implications for Professionals, Managers and Executives (“PMEs”).
Jurisdiction of the ECT
The ECT is established under the Employment Claims Act 2016 (“the Act”). According to the Act, the ECT is empowered to hear all claims listed in the Second Schedule of the Act pertaining to the Employment Act, the Retirement and Re-employment Act, and the Child Development Co-Savings Act.
Maximum Limit of the Claim
The maximum limit of the claim cannot exceed $20,000 at the ECT. However, the maximum amount is increased to $30,000 if the employee, attends the mediation session conducted by the Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management (“TADM”) or if the dispute has undergone mediation assisted by the trade unions.
If your claim exceeds the maximum limit stated above and if you still wish for your case to be heard at the ECT, you must abandon the excess amount. For example, if your claim is $50,000 and the maximum applicable limit is $30,000, you must agree to abandon the excess amount of $20,000 for the ECT to hear your claims. The abandoned excess amount is not claimable in any tribunal or court.
If you do not wish to abandon the excess amount, you may wish to consider seeking legal advice from our employment lawyers to pursue your claim in the civil courts.
The ECT can hear both statutory and contractual salary-related claims. Statutory salary-related claims are claims such as unpaid salaries, overtime pay and maternity benefits. These claims are backed by statutes, e.g. Employment Act, Retirement and Re-employment Act, or the Child Development Co-Savings Act.
For contractual salary-related claims, the ECT can hear the following types of claims:
- Annual wage supplement
- Bonus payment
- Deduction from salary
- Employment assistance payment
- Incentive payment
- Medical benefit
- Overtime payment
- Pay for extra work
- Pay for paid leave
- Pay for work on public holiday
- Pay for work on rest day
- Payment in lieu of unconsumed leave
- Reimbursement for expenses incurred while carrying out official duties
- Salary in lieu of notice of termination
- Termination benefit (including retrenchment benefit or retirement benefit)
Do note that salary-related claims need to be mediated before they can be heard at the ECT.
Types of Claims Outside the ECT’s Jurisdiction
The claims that fall outside the jurisdiction of the ECT are those that fall outside the statutory and contractual salary-related claims such as restraint of trade clauses, non-solicitation clauses and other non-competition clauses. These are more complicated claims and for such claims, you should file them in either the Labour Court or the Civil Courts.
Employees who are public servants, domestic workers and seafarers cannot bring their contractual salary-related claims to the ECT. The reason for this is because there are other avenues to resolve their claims. Public servants can resolve their disputes through the Public Service’s internal processes. Domestic workers can still resolve their disputes through Ministry of Manpower or their respective employment agencies. As for seafarers, they can resolve their disputes through the Merchant Shipping (Maritime Labour Convention) Act 2014 (No. 6 of 2014).
However, it is noted that public servants, domestic workers and seafarers can still bring limited statutory salary-related claims such as claims for employment assistance payments and maternity benefits to the ECT.
How to File the Claim?
The filing of the claim can be done online via the TADM website. The costs of filing the claim are:
- $10 if you are claiming $10,000 or less
- $20 if your claim exceeds $10,000
A mediation session will be arranged at the TADM within 4 weeks.
Do note that if you have a claim against your employer and you are currently employed by the employer, you are to file your claim within 1 year after the dispute has arisen. If you have left the employment of your employer, you are to file your claim within 6 months of your last day of work.
Proceedings and Orders
The proceedings before the ECT are conducted in private and the parties to the proceedings must act in person and cannot be represented by a lawyer or an agent. The ECT may make orders requiring one party to pay money to the other party, an order to dismiss a claim in whole or in part and to order costs. And the ECT may also attach conditions to the orders made.
If you are dissatisfied with the order of the ECT, you may appeal to the High Court but only if the District Court grants leave to appeal on a point of law. Alternatively, you may also appeal to the High Court on the basis that the ECT had made orders for a matter that is outside the ECT’s jurisdiction. In the meantime, the execution of the ECT’s order is not stayed unless the District Court or the High Court gives its approval for a stay of execution.
Implications of the ECT on Businesses and PMEs
Employers can now file contractual and statutory salary-related claims relating to salary in lieu of notice of termination to the ECT.
Previously, PMEs earning a basic monthly salary exceeding $4,500 cannot bring their claims to the TADM. After the establishment of the ECT, all PMEs who are union members in non-unionised companies may file a claim. Rank-and-file union members in non-unionised companies may also file a claim.
If your claims falls outside the jurisdiction of the ECT, you can contact our employment lawyers on your next course of action.
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