The New Workplace Tripartite Standards and How Your Business Can Benefit from Adopting Them

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In recent months, the Ministry of Manpower has successively published Tripartite Standards that it jointly developed with the National Trades Union Congress and Singapore National Employers Federation. 4 of these standards are:

These standards are currently not legally binding in Singapore. In other words, your business is not required by law to adopt them. However, your business is encouraged to do so if it will benefit from doing so.

Tripartite Standard on Employment of Term Contract Employees

The Tripartite Standard on Employment of Term Contract Employees is most relevant to businesses that employ “term contract employees”. These are employees who are employed for fixed terms and whose employment will end upon the expiry of those terms unless their employment contracts are renewed.

The Tripartite Standard on Employment of Term Contract Employees has implications on the:

  • Granting of leave benefits to term contract employees with short employment terms
  • Calculation of notice period for termination or non-renewal of term contract employees’ employment contracts

Granting of leave benefits to term contract employees with short employment terms

Under the law, term contract employees are entitled to leave benefits under the Employment Act (EA) and Child Development Co-Savings Act (CDCA) if they have served their employer for a continuous period of at least 3 months. These leave benefits include annual leave, sick leave, maternity leave/paternity leave and childcare leave.

However, term contract employees whose terms of employment are shorter than 3 months, and who are rehired by the same employer shortly after expiry of their contract, are not entitled to these leave benefits. This is even if they have been with the same employer for a long period of time.

The Tripartite Standard on Employment of Term Contract Employees therefore recommends that if your business hires employees for fixed terms of 14 days or more, where their employment contracts are renewed within 1 month from the expiry of the previous contract, these fixed terms of employment should be considered as “continuous service” despite the “break” in employment.

As a result, these term contract employees should be given the same leave benefits under the EA and CDCA once they have accumulated a total of 3 months of continuous service.

For instance, person X is hired to work on the 2nd to 15th day of 1 month, with this contract being renewed every month. In other words, X is required to undertake 14 days of service every month, where his contract is renewed within 1 month from the expiry of the previous contract.

In this situation, the Tripartite Standard on Employment of Term Contract Employees recommends that each 14-day period of service be considered “continuous service”. Accordingly, X could be granted leave benefits under the EA and CDCA, pro-rated on the total length of his continuous service, once he has clocked 3 months of “continuous service”.

Calculation of notice period for non-renewal of term contract employees’ employment contracts

Additionally, the Tripartite Standard on Employment of Term Contract Employees recommends that both employers and term contract employees be given sufficient notice on whether either party intends to renew the contract before it actually expires.

For this purpose, employers may use the same notice period required for early termination of the contract. If this had not been agreed upon earlier, the Tripartite Standard on Employment of Term Contract Employees recommends implementing the following notice period:

Total length of “continuous service” Minimum notice period on contract renewal decision
Below 26 weeks 1 day
26 weeks to below 2 years 1 week
2 years to below 5 years 2 weeks
5 years and above 4 weeks

Finally, your business is encouraged to train term contract employees to effectively fulfil the functions for which they are employed. This is even though they are not employed on a permanent basis.

Tripartite Standard on Flexible Work Arrangements

The Tripartite Standard on Flexible Work Arrangements is particularly relevant to businesses that offer jobs where flexible work arrangements are possible. These arrangements include:

  • Flexi-load arrangements, e.g. job-sharing or part-time work
  • Flexi-time arrangements, e.g. compressed work weeks or staggered hours
  • Flexi-place arrangements, e.g. telecommuting

If it is possible for your business to offer flexible work arrangements, the Tripartite Standard on Flexible Work Arrangements recommends that your business informs your employees about the kinds of arrangements offered, how to request for them and what is expected of them should they enter into such arrangements.

Requests made by employees for flexible work arrangements should be objectively assessed based on the appropriateness of the arrangement, taking into account the demands of the job and your employees’ needs.

Your employees should be informed of the decision on their requests expeditiously. The outcome should also be documented. For unsuccessful requests, the Tripartite Standard on Flexible Work Arrangements encourages management to communicate the reasons for rejection to the employees concerned, and explore the possibility of other arrangements which can better benefit both them and the business.

For successful requests, management should set work expectations for these employees and assess their performance fairly based on their deliverables.

Tripartite Standard on Grievance Handling

From time to time, a business may have employees who feel discontented or unfairly treated at the workplace.

The Tripartite Standard on Grievance Handling therefore proposes that your business implement a procedure through which employees may raise their grievances and for your business to investigate and address such grievances accordingly.

This grievance handling procedure should be documented and made known to all employees. It should make clear who will be the authority to hear the matters and provide a reasonable timeframe for resolving the matter. In this light, your business should conduct training for management and/or designated staff to equip them with the know-how and skills on managing employee feedback and grievances.

Grievance handling discussions between your business and employees should also be documented without compromising on the confidentiality of the matters discussed.

Should the matter be unresolved, aggrieved employees should be allowed to escalate their grievances to the subsequent level, e.g. a trade union. Your business is encouraged to cooperate with the union if it is unionised.

Tripartite Standard on Recruitment Practices

Job openings

When advertising job openings, the Tripartite Standard on Recruitment Practices recommends that your business only include selection criteria which concern the qualifications, knowledge, skills, and experience necessary for the position.

Should specific attributes be required, such as how applicants should be of a particular gender or competent in a particular language, the purpose(s) for requiring these attributes should be clearly stated.

Job application forms

Next, job application forms should preferably only request for information that is relevant for evaluating an application. If information such as the applicant’s age, date of birth, gender, race, religion, and marital status is needed, the reasons for requiring such information should be clearly stated.

Job interviews

During job interviews, the interviewers should assess each interviewee fairly and impartially, based on objective and relevant selection criteria. Your business should document the interview, assessment process and any job offer made and retain such documentation for at least 1 year.

Finally, applicants whose applications have been rejected should be informed of the unsuccessful outcome.

Benefits of Adopting these Tripartite Standards

While the adoption of these standards is not compulsory, implementing fair and progressive workplace practices may benefit your business in the following ways, amongst others:

  • Your business can differentiate itself from competitors in the same field, thereby increasing its attractiveness as an employer of choice. This is because if your business fulfils the specifications of a certain Tripartite Standard, it may register itself as an organisation that has adopted that Tripartite Standard and then use that Tripartite Standard’s logomark in its marketing collaterals and job advertisements.
  • Your business stands to gain greater visibility. Organisations which have adopted the Tripartite Standards are listed on Tripartite Alliance for Fair & Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP) website for public viewing.
  • Employee satisfaction levels may increase. This may in turn boost employees’ morale, productivity, and the quality of their deliverables.
  • Talent is more likely to be retained. This will allow your business to reduce turnover rates and the costs of hiring and training new personnel.

The Tripartite Standards operate independently of each other. In other words, even if your business is unable to fulfil the specifications of a particular Tripartite Standard, it may still adopt any, or any combination, of the other Tripartite Standards if it is able to fulfil the specifications of those Tripartite Standards instead.

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