Can Your Boss Ask You to Work on a Public Holiday in Singapore?

Last updated on April 1, 2019

Featured image for the "Can Your Boss Ask You to Work on a Public Holiday in Singapore?" post. It features a businessman sleeping and dreaming about a holiday at his desk.

A public holiday is coming and you’re eagerly looking forward to that break…

But 1 day before the public holiday, your boss suddenly calls you up and asks you to go to work the next day!

You’re outraged.

Can your boss do that to you? Or should you be making a complaint to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM)?

The short answer is: yes, your boss can ask you to work on a public holiday.

However, if you are considered an “employee” under the Employment Act, your boss will then need to:

  • Pay you an extra day’s salary; or
  • Provide you with a day off on another day.

(Do we even *have* human rights in Singapore? Okay, kidding.) ⠀ You’re probably already well aware of this, but tomorrow is Vesak Day – a public holiday! Unfortunately, some of us may be called back by our bosses to continue working. This is legal but if you are a non-government employee, you will generally be entitled to 1 extra day’s pay. ⠀ This extra pay is calculated based on your basic rate of pay if the public holiday falls on a working day, or your gross rate of pay if the public holiday falls on a non-working day (i.e. weekends for most office people). (Also, gross rate of pay = basic pay rate + allowances.) ⠀ Alternatively, you and your boss can agree to let you make up your holiday on another day. Personally we would prefer the day off, but go for the option that works better for you! Happy Vesak Day in advance! ⠀ #singaporelegaladvice #singapore #law #singaporelaw #instasg #sglife #publicholiday #holiday #VesakDay

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Which Days are Public Holidays in Singapore?

There are 11 official public holidays in Singapore. They are:

  1. New Year’s Day
  2. Chinese New Year (first day)
  3. Chinese New Year (second day)
  4. Hari Raya Puasa
  5. Hari Raya Haji
  6. Good Friday
  7. Labour Day
  8. Vesak Day
  9. National Day
  10. Deepavali
  11. Christmas Day

The dates of public holidays are set by the MOM. Some of these dates are fixed (for example, National Day always falls on 9 August), while some change every year. You can find the dates of public holidays on the MOM website. Dates of the next year’s public holidays are usually published in the second quarter of the current year.

Polling Day, either for the General Elections or the Presidential Elections, is also considered a public holiday. However, Polling Day for a by-election will not be a public holiday.

You are Entitled to Payment on a Public Holiday

In general, you will be entitled to be paid regardless of whether you work on a public holiday. There are 2 types of payment rates:

  • Basic rate of pay. This is the basic pay that you are entitled to under your employment contract. It does not include extra payments such as for overtime work, or any allowances.
  • Gross rate of pay. The gross rate of pay is the basic rate of pay plus any allowances you may be entitled to under your employment contract. However, it also excludes payment for overtime work.

What If You Are NOT Working on a Public Holiday?

If you are not working on a public holiday, you are entitled to be paid 1 day’s salary at the gross rate of pay.

This pay will already be included if you are paid on a monthly basis, so your boss will not have to pay you extra. This is unlike if you are paid on a daily basis, where you should receive extra pay for the public holiday itself.

Note: you will not be entitled to this pay if:

  • You skip work on the working day before or after a public holiday without your boss’s approval; or
  • You applied for and took unpaid leave on that public holiday.

What If You Work on a Public Holiday?

If you work on a public holiday, the types of compensation you are entitled to depends on what day the public holiday falls on (e.g. working or non-working day), and also your role in the organisation.

The following table summarises your possible entitlements:

Compensation options for working on a public holiday if you are hired as a:

  • Manager or executive
  • Workman earning up to $4,500 per month
  • Non-workman earning up to $2,600 per month
Compensation options for working on a public holiday if you are hired as a:

  • Workman earning more than $4,500 per month
  • Non-workman earning more than $2,600 per month
Public holiday falls on a working day
  • Extra day’s pay at basic rate of pay
  • Make up holiday on another working day
  • Time off work on 1 working day
  • Extra day’s pay at basic rate of pay
  • Make up holiday on another working day
Public holiday falls on a non-working day
  • Extra day’s pay at gross rate of pay
  • Make up holiday on another working day
  • Time off work on 1 working day
  • Extra day’s pay at gross rate of pay
  • Make up holiday on another working day
Public holiday falls on a rest day N/A (rest days don’t apply to you)
  • Extra payment, with the amount depending on at whose request you are working; and paid holiday on next working day

If the public holiday falls on a working day

If you are asked to work on a public holiday that falls on a working day, you are entitled to an extra day’s pay at the basic rate of pay.

You will be entitled to this pay even if you had skipped work on the working day before or after the public holiday, without your boss’s approval. However, your boss can deduct 1 day’s pay at the gross rate of pay from your salary for your being absent without leave.

(The full working day basic or gross rate of pay will apply even if the public holiday falls on a half working day.)

Instead of getting an extra day’s pay at the basic rate of pay, you can arrange to make up the holiday on another working day if both you and your boss agree on this.

Alternatively, you can also request to get time off work on 1 working day if you are:

  • Hired in a managerial or executive position;
  • A workman earning up to $4,500 a month; or
  • A non-workman earning up to $2,600 a month

Your entitlement to time off will be as follows, unless you and your boss agree on another arrangement:

  • 4 hours of time off if you worked up to 4 hours on the public holiday; or
  • A day off if you worked for more than 4 hours on the public holiday.

If the public holiday falls on a non-working day

Non-working days are days which you do not have to work. For example, if you are required to work from Mondays to Fridays, the non-working days in the week are Saturday and Sunday.

If you are called back by your boss to work on a public holiday which falls on your non-working day, you should get an extra day’s pay at the gross rate of pay.

Instead of getting an extra day’s pay at the basic rate of pay, you can arrange to make up the holiday on another day if both you and your boss agree on this.

Alternatively, you can also request to get time off work on 1 working day if you are:

  • Hired in a managerial or executive position;
  • A workman earning up to $4,500 a month; or
  • A non-workman earning up to $2,600 a month

Your entitlement to time off will be as follows, unless you and your boss agree on another arrangement:

  • 4 hours of time off if you worked up to 4 hours on the public holiday; or
  • A day off if you worked for more than 4 hours on the public holiday.

If the public holiday falls on a rest day

Note: Only employees who earn up to $2,600 per month, and workmen who earn up to $4,500 per month, are entitled to rest days.

Rest days are days on which you are not paid because you are not working. If you are doing shift work, a rest day might be a continuous period of 30 non-working hours.

If you are entitled to rest days, your boss cannot make you work on your rest day unless there are exceptional circumstances. Exceptional circumstances could be where:

  • There has been an accident; or
  • Work has to be done for the defence of Singapore.

If you have to work on a public holiday which happens to fall on your rest day, you are entitled to payment for work done on the rest day. How this extra payment is calculated depends on whether it was you or your boss who requested for the work to be done on that day.

  • If your boss had requested you to work, the payment is 1 full day’s salary for up to half your normal working hours. If you work more than half your normal working hours, you should be paid up to 2 days’ salary.
  • If you had requested to work, the payment is half a day’s pay for half your normal working hours. And if you have worked more than half your normal working hours, you should be paid a full day’s pay.

Apart from this extra pay, you will also get a paid holiday on your next working day.

Overtime pay entitlement still applicable

Regardless of what day the public holiday falls on, you will still be entitled to overtime pay if you work longer than your usual working hours.

What If Your Boss Refuses to Give You Your Extra Pay?

How to claim your extra pay

If your boss refuses to pay you your extra pay, you can file a claim at the Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management for mediation first. You will be able to claim a maximum of $20,000.

If you are still employed by your boss, you can file your claim within 1 year of the dispute. Otherwise, you will have to file your claim within 6 months from your last day of work.

If your dispute remains unresolved after mediation, your case will be referred to the court, via the Employment Claims Tribunal.

Your boss may be convicted of a criminal offence

In addition, your boss can be convicted of a criminal offence and fined up to $5,000.

If your boss had been convicted for the same offence previously, your boss can be fined up to $10,000 and/or jailed for up to 12 months.

In summary, your boss can make you work on a public holiday in Singapore. However, you will then be legally entitled to extra pay, or to make up your public holiday on another day if your boss agrees.

If you need legal advice on your public holiday entitlements in Singapore, or on filing a claim for unpaid extra salary against your boss, you may get in touch with one of our employment dispute lawyers.

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