Unfair Dismissal From Your Singapore Job: What to Do
If you are an employee who is covered under the Employment Act and feel that you have been unfairly dismissed, this article covers the options that you have in such a situation.
What is a Dismissal?
A dismissal occurs when your employer has terminated your employment contract or when you have been forced to resign from your position unwillingly. Termination can occur with or without notice.
For termination with notice, a dated, written notice of termination can be given by your employer from 1 day to 4 weeks in advance based on the duration of your employment (if you and your employer have not previously agreed on a notice period). For example, if you have been employed for 26 weeks or less, your employer should give you at least 1 day’s notice.
Termination may also occur either without any advance notice or during the notice period where your employer pays an amount equal to what you would have earned by the end of the notice period.
Is Your Dismissal Valid?
Your dismissal is considered valid if it is made on the grounds of reasons such as:
- Misconduct, for example, due to disorderly conduct at work;
- Poor performance, shown in the inability to meet required standards of work; and
- Redundancy, due to automation or excess manpower.
The validity of these reasons arises from the injury your actions could have caused to the company or other employees due to poor performance or misconduct, or from the company no longer needing your services resulting in redundancy.
Misconduct is the only reason that does not require a notice before dismissal. However, a due inquiry must be conducted by your employer, on the alleged act of misconduct, prior to making a decision on dismissing you.
Similarly, in the case of dismissal for reasons of poor performance, the employer must substantiate the reason (E.g. provide documented proof of the employee’s poor performance). Failing which, the dismissal would be considered wrongful (more below).
When is Your Dismissal Considered Wrongful?
If you have been dismissed by your employer with insufficient or unjust cause, your dismissal may be considered wrongful, even when a notice is given.
The Tripartite Guidelines on Wrongful Dismissal provides examples of unfair dismissal, some of which include:
- Discriminatory reasons based on race, gender, age etc.;
- Deprivation of employment entitlements or benefits such as maternity leave; or
- Being punished for exercising your rights as an employee, such as being dismissed for filing a salary-related claim.
While the Tripartite Guidelines on Wrongful Dismissal are not laws, they are supplementary material to pre-existing employment laws. The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has stated that it can take action against organisations that do not comply with the guidelines.
What You Can Do If You Think You have been Unfairly Dismissed
If you believe that your dismissal has been carried out on wrongful terms, there are different stages which you should follow, in sequence, to rectify the issue.
Before going ahead with any course of action, do examine your employment contract to ensure that you have not violated any of its terms.
You may also want to look through the List of Tripartite Guidelines and Advisories to ascertain whether your employers have made any transgressions of their own.
Stage 1: Attempt to resolve the matter internally
First and foremost, do not act in a fit of rage and immediately pursue legal action as it can cause a drain on your time and finances. Going through internal channels is the first step you should consider to rectifying the situation within your company.
Most companies have an internal avenue, such as the Human Resources (HR) department, for employees to lodge complaints against unfair treatment. To pursue internal action, these are the steps to take:
Step 1: Arrange a meeting with your HR department.
- Familiarise yourself with your employee rights and the terms and conditions of your contract.
- Compile all relevant documents and bring physical copies of them to the meeting to produce as evidence. These documents include the notice (if one had been given), your bank statements, attendance records and anything else that supports your case.
- Ensure that your arguments are factually correct and focused.
Step 2: Going for the meeting.
- Attempt to seek clarification for your dismissal and find out whether these issues arose due to miscommunication or misunderstandings.
- Be receptive to having an amicable and honest discussion to resolve the relevant issues.
Step 3: Finishing the meeting.
- Put the agreements and outcomes in writing to facilitate follow-up actions after the meeting concludes.
If the meeting is successful, your employment in the company may be reinstated. However, if the meeting is unsuccessful, you can then proceed to file your claim as demonstrated in the next stage.
Stage 2: Seek external help
If matters fail to be resolved internally, you can choose to lodge an official complaint.
Appeal to the Minister of Manpower
The avenue of appealing to the Minister of Manpower is only available if you believe you have been unfairly dismissed due to your age. You must appeal within 1 month of dismissal.
File a mediation claim with the Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management (TADM)
TADM is jointly set up by the tripartite partners – MOM, National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) and Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF). They provide employees with mediation, advisory services, support services and free basic legal advice to help resolve employment-related issues.
All employees, except for a domestic worker, seafarer or public officer can file a claim for mediation with the TADM. However, the following persons must have first served their employers for the minimum duration of at least:
- 6 months, if you are a manager or executive who has been dismissed with notice.
- 3 months, if you were dismissed while pregnant.
If you are a manager or executive and have been dismissed without notice, no minimum duration of employment is required.
Additionally, for all employees whose employer still owes you your salary, your salary-related claim must be filed in addition to the unfair dismissal claim (i.e. 2 separate claims must be filed).
The following are options to file your claims, depending on whether you are a non-union member, a union member or an NTUC member:
Option 1: If you are a non-union member, file a claim for mediation with TADM.
You must file your claim either within:
- 1 month after your last day of employment; or
- 2 months of child birth if you were wrongfully dismissed during pregnancy.
To file your claim, you can either fill in TADM’s e-claim form using SingPass or make an appointment if you do not have a SingPass, along with the following supporting documents:
- Employment contract;
- Salary payment records and CPF statements;
- Termination or resignation letter; and
- Any other written documents to support your claim.
The registration fees for filing a claim are as follows:
|Claim Amount||Registration Fee|
|Up to $10,000||$10|
|More than $10,000||$20|
Payment can be made with your credit or debit card, or via internet banking.
Option 2: If you are a union member, you may approach your union to assist in filing your claim for mediation. To do so, ensure that you have:
- Left your company within 1 month of the last day of employment.
- (For NTUC members) Been a member of NTUC for at least 6 months.
The same documents and registration fee as mentioned in Option 1 apply.
NTUC members employed in non-unionised companies and are members of a registered trade union (without representation rights), can also choose to engage in Tripartite Mediation (TM) by submitting an online query to NTUC.
What happens after I’ve filed a mediation claim with the TADM?
After filing a mediation claim with TADM, it will first assess if your claim on wrongful dismissal can be substantiated prior to arranging a mediation session. Mediation will be conducted by one of TADM’s professional mediators between you and your employer in a 2 to 3 hours session.
No lawyers will be allowed to attend the session with either party.
If the mediation is successful, the mediator will issue a settlement agreement. You can register this settlement agreement as a binding order under the Community Justice and Tribunals System (CJTS) for a registration fee of $10, within 4 weeks.
The employer must, given 2 weeks of the settlement agreement (or by a mutually agreed date) pay the agreed amount to you. Following which you are to inform TADM of receiving the amount by returning to them an Updating Payment Status of Settlement Agreement form or the ECT Order form.
If your employer fails to pay you, TADM will take action on your behalf by reporting to MOM.
If the mediation is unsuccessful, you may proceed to the next stage (see below).
Stage 3: Bringing the case to Employment Claims Tribunals (ECT)
If TADM is unable to help resolve the matter, the matter will be brought to the ECT for further mediation. The ECT provides employers and employees with an efficient and low-cost forum to resolve salary and wrongful dismissal-related issues.
You will receive a Claim Referral Certificate from a TADM mediator to file your ECT claim within 4 weeks of receiving the certificate online via the CJTS.
The fees for filing are as follows:
|Claim Amount||Filing Fee|
|More than $10,000||$60|
Mediation by the ECT can result in several outcomes. These are the possible orders the ECT may make:
- Require the employer to reinstate you and pay the salary lost from the date of wrongful dismissal to the date of reinstatement;
- Require the employer to compensate you for wrongful dismissal; or
- Dismiss the claim.
Stage 4: Consulting a lawyer
If your claim is unsuccessful after the mediation at ECT as well, you can opt to hire a lawyer to file a civil claim in the Magistrates’ Court.
While a lawyer can be consulted during the above 2 stages (i.e filing a claim with the TADM and ECT) for advice on the proper steps to take as well, the lawyer is not allowed to attend or intervene in any of the mediation proceedings.
Stage 5: Leaving with dignity
When all else fails and your dismissal is sustained, it may be best to accept the result and leave the company with your dignity intact.
Instead of taking any impulsive or violent action, thank your bosses and fellow colleagues and leave on good terms. You never know when the connections made in the company may come in handy, for example, in landing you a new job.
See the termination in a positive light. It may be the end of your time in one company, but it opens up the chance for you to find a job and company that better suits your needs.
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