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Singapore
 


Source and scope of regulations - 2019    

References
  • The Employment Act (Cap. 91) [EA] of 8 June 1968, as consolidated in April 2016.
    Date: 01 Apr 2016; view website » (view in NATLEX »)
  • Trade Unions Act (Cap. 333). (view in NATLEX »)
  • Industrial Relations Act (Cap. 136) (view in NATLEX »)
Scope
Size of enterprises excluded (≤): none
Workers' categories excluded: domestic workers; managerial / executive positions; seafarers
Remarks:
  • Sec. 2 EA: see definition of "employees":
    "employee" means a person who has entered into or works under a contract of service with an employer and includes a workman, and any officer or employee of the Government included in a category, class or description of such officers or employees declared by the President to be employees for the purposes of this Act or any provision thereof, but does not include:
    (a) any seaman;
    (b) any domestic worker;
    (c) subject to subsection (2), any person employed in a managerial or an executive position; and
    (d) any person belonging to any other class of persons whom the Minister may, from time to time by notification in the Gazette, declare not to be employees for the purposes of this Act."

Notes / Remarks
The tripartite partners – the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) and the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) - have jointly issued a Tripartite Guidelines on Managing Excess Manpower in 2008. It was revised in 2017 as "Tripartite Advisory on Managing Excess Manpower and Responsible Retrenchment" (Available at: https://www.mom.gov.sg/~/media/mom/documents/employment-practices/guidelines/tripartite-advisory-on-managing-excess-manpower-and-responsible-retrenchment.pdf?la=en).


Types of employment contracts - 2019    

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Maximum probationary (trial) period: no limitation

Remarks:
  • The EA does not refer to any probation period.
    However, it is common practice for employees to serve a 3 to 6 month-probationary period.

Fixed term contract (FTC):
  • FTC regulated: No
  • Valid reasons for FTC use: no limitation
    Remarks:
    • Termination of contract
      Art. 9 EA.—(1) A contract of service for a specified piece of work or for a specified period of time shall, unless otherwise terminated inaccordance with the provisions of this Part, terminate when the work specified in the contract is completed or the period of time for which the contract was made has expired.
      (2) A contract of service for an unspecified period of time shall be deemed to run until terminated by either party in accordance with the provisions of this Part.
  • Maximum number of successive FTCs: no limitation
    Remarks:
    • No statutory limitation in the legislation reviewed.
  • Maximum cumulative duration of successive FTCs: no limitation
    Remarks:
    • No statutory limitation in the legislation reviewed.

Substantive requirements for dismissals (justified and prohibited grounds) - 2019    

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Obligation to provide reasons to the employee: No
Remarks:
  • The EA does not require the employer to provide the reasons for termination with notice: Sec. 10 (1) EA provides that either party may at any time give to the other party notice of his intention to terminate the contract.

    In addition, the EA does not expressly stipulate any obligation to provide the reasons when dismissing without notice (on the grounds of misconduct: sec. 14 EA), for continuous absence from work (sec. 13 (2)), or willful breach of a condition of the contract (sec. 11 (2) EA).


Valid grounds (justified dismissal): none
Remarks:
  • - No valid grounds are listed for termination with notice.
    According to sec. 10 (1) EA, either party to a contract of employment may at any time give to the other party notice of his/her intention to terminate the contract of employment.
    This does not result in a total freedom to terminate the contract: it must be understood in light of the existence of prohibited grounds.

    For summary dismissal, specific grounds are listed:
    See sec. 13 (2) EA (summary dismissal for unjustified absence from work) and sec. 14 EA (summary dismissal for misconduct).
    Sec. 14 (2) EA provides that dismissal on the grounds of misconduct shall be based on a just cause or excuse.

    Economic reasons: not listed as such as a valid ground for dismissal. They are mentioned in two provisions related to benefits arising from "dismissal on the grounds of redundancy or by reason of any reorganization of the employer's profession, business, trade or work": see sec. 45 EA (payment of retrenchment benefit) and 84A EA (maternity and right to benefit in case of dismissal for economic reasons).


Prohibited grounds: pregnancy; maternity leave; age; trade union membership and activities
Remarks:
  • * Age: sec. 4 (2) of Retirement Age Act 1993 (No. 14 of 1993) as amended by Act No. 49 of 1998 stipulates that "no employer shall dismiss on the ground of age any employee who is below 60 years of age or the prescribed retirement age".
    * Pregnancy and maternity leave: sec. 81, 84 and 84 A EA.
    * Trade union activities: sec. 82 of the Industrial Relations Act (chap. 136) of 1960 as subsequently amended.


Workers enjoying special protection: pregnant women and/or women on maternity leave
Remarks:
  • See sec. 81, 84 and 84A EA.


Notes / Remarks
Under the Employment Act, either party to a contract of employment may at any time give to the other party notice of his/her intention to terminate the contract of employment (sec. 10 (1), EA).

In addition, summary dismissal (without notice) by the employer is possible when:
- the employee willfully breaches a condition of the employment contract (sec. 11 (2), EA);
- the employee is continuously absent from work, without leave or reasonable excuse, for more than two days (sec. 13 (2), EA); or
- the employee is found, after due inquiry, to be guilty of misconduct (sec. 14, EA).

Procedural requirements for individual dismissals - 2019    

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Notification to the worker to be dismissed: written

Remarks:
  • Sec. 10 (5) EA.

Notice period:
Remarks:
  • Notice periods are governed by the terms of the contract (sec. 10 (2) EA), and it is only in the absence of such a stipulation that the statutory notice periods apply.
    Sec. 10 (3) EA establishes statutory minimum notice periods as follows:
    - one day for less than 26 weeks' service;
    - one week for 26 weeks to less than two years' service;
    - two weeks for two to less than five years' service;
    - four weeks for five or more years' service.
    ______________________
    Notice of termination of contract
    10.—(1) Either party to a contract of service may at any time give to the other party notice of his intention to terminate the contract of service.
    (2) The length of such notice shall be the same for both employer and employee and shall be determined by any provision made for the notice in the terms of the contract of service, or, in the absence of such provision, shall be in accordance with subsection (3).
    (3) The notice to terminate the service of a person who is employed under a contract of service shall be not less than — (a) one day’s notice if he has been so employed for less than 26 weeks; (b) one week’s notice if he has been so employed for 26 weeks or more but less than 2 years; (c) 2 weeks’ notice if he has been so employed for 2 years or more but less than 5 years; and (d) 4 weeks’ notice if he has been so employed for 5 years or more.
    (4) This section shall not be taken to prevent either party from waiving his right to notice on any occasion.
    (5) Such notice shall be written and may be given at any time, and the day on which the notice is given shall be included in the period of the notice.

    Dismissal
    14 EA.—(1) An employer may after due inquiry dismiss without notice an employee employed by him on the grounds of misconduct inconsistent with the fulfilment of the express or implied conditions of his service except that instead of dismissing an employee an employer may —
    (a) instantly down-grade the employee; or
    (b) instantly suspend him from work without payment of salary for a period not exceeding one week.
    (2) Notwithstanding subsection (1), where a relevant employee considers that he has been dismissed without just cause or excuse
    his employer, he may, within one month of the dismissal, make representations in writing to the Minister to be reinstated in his former employment.
    (2A) For the purposes of subsection (2), a relevant employee means —
    (a) an employee employed in a managerial or an executive position —
    (i) who is dismissed with notice; or
    (ii) who is dismissed without notice but receives payment of any salary in lieu of notice, after having served that employer for at least 12 months in any position (whether or not a managerial or an executive position);
    (b) an employee employed in a managerial or an executive position who is dismissed without notice and without salary in lieu of such notice; or
    (c) an employee not employed in a managerial or an executive position.
    (3) The Minister may, before making a decision on any such representations, by writing under his hand request the
    commissioner to inquire into the dismissal and report whether in his opinion the dismissal is without just cause or excuse.
    (4) If, after considering the report made by the Commissioner under subsection (3), the Minister is satisfied that the employee has been dismissed without just cause or excuse, he may, notwithstanding any rule of law or agreement to the contrary —
    (a) direct the employer to reinstate the employee in his former employment and to pay the employee an amount that is equivalent to the wages that the employee would have earned
    had he not been dismissed by the employer; or (b) direct the employer to pay such amount of wages as compensation as may be determined by the Minister, and the employer shall comply with the direction of the Minister. (...)
    • tenure ≥ 6 months
      • 1 week(s).
    • tenure ≥ 9 months
      • 1 week(s).
    • tenure ≥ 2 years
      • 2 week(s).
    • tenure ≥ 4 years
      • 2 week(s).
    • tenure ≥ 5 years
      • 4 week(s).
    • tenure ≥ 10 years
      • 4 week(s).
    • tenure ≥ 20 years
      • 4 week(s).

    Pay in lieu of notice: Yes

    Remarks:
    • Sec. 11 (1) EA.

    Notification to the public administration: No

    Notification to workers' representatives: No

    Approval by public administration or judicial bodies: No

    Approval by workers' representatives: No

    Procedural requirements for collective dismissals for economic reasons (redundancy, retrenchment) - 2019    

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    Definition of collective dismissal (number of employees concerned):
    No statutory definition.

    Prior consultations with trade unions (workers' representatives): No

    Notification to the public administration: No

    Notification to workers' representatives: No

    Approval by public administration or judicial bodies: No

    Approval by workers' representatives: No

    Priority rules for collective dismissals (social considerations, age, job tenure): No

    Employer's obligation to consider alternatives to dismissal (transfers, retraining...): No

    Priority rules for re-employment: No

    Notes / Remarks
    There is no statutory procedure for collective and individual dismissals on economic grounds.
    However the tripartite partners – the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) and the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) - have jointly issued a Tripartite Guidelines on Managing Excess Manpower in 2008. It was revised in 2017 as "Tripartite Advisory on Managing Excess Manpower and Responsible Retrenchment" (Available at: https://www.mom.gov.sg/~/media/mom/documents/employment-practices/guidelines/tripartite-advisory-on-managing-excess-manpower-and-responsible-retrenchment.pdf?la=en) and reads as follows:
    - Para. 3: Employers facing structural changes "should consider alternative ways of managing their local manpower where possible. These could include upskilling employees and redesigning jobs" and employers are "encouraged to consult the unions, business associations and employees about these changes";
    - Para. 7: If the company is unionised, the relevant union(s) should be consulted as early as possible. Where it is provided in the collective agreement, the norm is one month before notifying the employee;
    - Para 5.: When carrying out a retrenchment exercise, the selection of employees for retrenchment should be conducted fairly, based on objective criteria such as the ability of the employee to contribute to the company’s future business needs. Employers should not discriminate against any particular group on grounds of age, race, gender, religion, marital status and family responsibility, or disability. For instance, older, re-employed as well as pregnant employees should not be unfairly targeted;
    - Para. 15: Responsible employers are encouraged to adopt a longer retrenchment notice period when compared to the normal termination of employment contract, or to pay in lieu of such notice;
    - Para. 17. Employees with 2 years’ service or more are eligible for retrenchment benefits. Those with less than 2 years’ service could be granted an ex-gratia payment.

    Severance pay and redundancy payment - 2019    

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    Severance pay:
    Remarks:
    • No provision on severance pay in the Employment Act.
    • tenure ≥ 6 months: 0 month(s)
    • tenure ≥ 9 months: 0 month(s)
    • tenure ≥ 1 year: 0 month(s)
    • tenure ≥ 2 years: 0 month(s)
    • tenure ≥ 4 years: 0 month(s)
    • tenure ≥ 5 years: 0 month(s)
    • tenure ≥ 10 years: 0 month(s)
    • tenure ≥ 20 years: 0 month(s)
    Redundancy payment:
    • tenure ≥ 6 months: 0 month(s)
    • tenure ≥ 9 months: 0 month(s)
    • tenure ≥ 1 year: 0 month(s)
    • tenure ≥ 2 years: 0 month(s)
    • tenure ≥ 4 years: 0 month(s)
    • tenure ≥ 5 years: 0 month(s)
    • tenure ≥ 10 years: 0 month(s)
    • tenure ≥ 20 years: 0 month(s)

    Notes / Remarks
    1) Dismissal not based on economic reasons: no statutory severance pay.
    2) Economic dismissal: no statutory redundancy payment for employees with less than two years of service (art. 45 EA).

    According to the 2017 Tripartite Advisory on Managing Excess Manpower and Responsible Retrenchment:
    - Para.17: Employees with 2 years’ service or more are eligible for retrenchment benefits. Those with less than 2 years’ service could be granted an ex-gratia payment.
    - Para. 18: The quantum of retrenchment benefit depends on what is provided for in the collective agreement or contract of service. If there is no provision, the quantum is to be negotiated between the employees (via their union in the case of a unionised company) and the employer concerned.
    - Para. 19: The prevailing norm is to pay a retrenchment benefit varying between 2 weeks to 1 month salary per year of service, depending on the financial position of the company and taking into consideration the industry norm. However, in unionised companies where the quantum of retrenchment benefit is stipulated in the collective agreement, the norm is one month’s salary for each year of service.
    - Para. 20: If the retrenchment exercise follows shortly after a wage cut, the salary prior to the wage cut should be used to compute the retrenchment benefit, so that cuts are not implemented just to reduce retrenchment payments.

    Avenues for redress (penalties, remedies) and litigation procedure for individual complaints - 2019    

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    Compensation for unfair dismissal - free determination by court: Yes

    Remarks:
    • Sec. 14 (4) EA: If the Minister of Manpower considers the dismissal to be unfair, he may:
      1) order reinstatement and payment of wages the employee would have earned had he or she not been dismissed, or in lieu if reinstatement
      2) direct the employer to pay such amount of compensation as freely determined by the Minister.

    Reinstatement available: Yes

    Remarks:
    • Sec. 14 (4) a) EA: If after consideration of the Labour Commissioner's inquiry, the Minister of Labour is satisfied that the employee has been dismissed (on the grounds of misconduct) without "just cause or excuse", he may order reinstatement.

    Preliminary mandatory conciliation: No

    Remarks:
    • No statutory provision in the legislation reviewed.

    Competent court(s) / tribunal(s): administrative body

    Remarks:
    • An employee who considers that he or she has been summarily dismissed on the grounds of misconduct without just cause or excuse may, within one month of the dismissal and in writing, seek reinstatement (and/or compensation) from the Minister of Manpower (sec. 14 (2) EA. The decision of the Minister is final and cannot be challenged in any court (sec. 14(5), EA).


    Existing arbitration: No

    Notes / Remarks
    Claims of unfair dismissal (without just cause) dealt with in this section are only available to the employee in the event of a summary dismissal dismissal (for misconduct).

    In the event of any termination of the contract by the employer, the employee has the right to sue in the civil courts for breach of contract at common law.

    Source of additional information - 2019    

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    Links

    2017 Tripartite Advisory on Managing Excess Manpower and Responsible Retrenchment »
    Jointly agreed guidelines by the tripartite partners – the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) and the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF).

    Background paper for the Tripartite Meeting of Experts to Examine the Termination of Employment Convention, 1982 (No. 158), and the Termination of Employment Recommendation, 1982 (No. 166), April 2011 »
    See the country study on employment termination legislation in Singapore: pp. 38-43.