Small Claims Employment Tribunal Could Be On The Way

Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin announced during MOM’s Workplan Seminar 2014 at Orchid Country Club on 24th April that the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has proposed the establishment of a small claims employment tribunal for all workers. Currently, the Ministry of Manpower handles statute-related disputes, such as those concerning the Employment Act. However, not all employees are protected under the Employment Act. Those who are not, such as managers and executives earning above S$4,500 a month, can only pursue breaches of employment through civil suits. This can be a protracted and expensive process. The new tribunal will include managers and executives earning above $4,500 a month.

Under MOM’s proposal, workers will be able to lodge claims, subject to a certain claims limit, for statutory issues provided for in the Employment Act, such as salary claims and other salary-related matters specified in the employment contract. This can include commissions, bonuses or annual wage supplement payments. This proposal came about due to the growing proportion of managers and executives in the workforce, and the consequent need for a quick and inexpensive dispute resolution process for them. MOM is continuing to consult and engage stakeholders on the proposed tribunal, and that more details will be announced at a later date.

Besides the proposed tribunal, the other piece of news is that MOM will make it mandatory for selected key employment terms to be provided in writing. The terms include salary, main job duties and responsibilities, and will come into effect in two years. As a first step, MOM will introduce a set of guidelines by the second half of this year, to help employers provide those key employment terms to employees in writing. The suggestion to make it mandatory for employers to explicitly state key terms in employment contracts was raised in consultations MOM held in 2013, as part of the ongoing review of the Employment Act.