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New employment claims tribunals to help workers in Singapore with salary-related disputes

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The State Courts has recently launched the new employment claims tribunals (ECT) on 1 April 2017 to help workers speed up with the resolution of employment disputes.

Established under the employment claims act, the ECT will hear all statutory salary-related claims from employees covered under the employment act, retirement and re-employment act, and child development co-savings act.

The types of statutory salary-related claims include unpaid salary, overtime pay, salary in lieu of notice, employment assistance payments, and maternity benefits. This was previously managed by the Labour Court at the Ministry of Manpower.

Hearing more types of claims as compared to the Labour Court, the ECT will hear contractual salary-related claims from employees; including PMEs who earn more than S$4,500 per month.

Such claims include payment of allowances, bonuses, commissions, salary in lieu of notice and retrenchment benefits, provided that these are expressed in monetary terms in the contract.

This will bridge a current gap for this group of persons who are not covered under the employment act, and whose only recourse prior to the establishment of the ECT would be through the Civil Courts.

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Similar to the small claims tribunals, the ECT is designed to provide a speedy, low-cost forum for parties to resolve their employment disputes. With no lawyers involved, it will have simplified procedures and will be judge-led.

However, the ECT is not a forum for complicated employment claims. The tribunals will only have jurisdiction to hear claims up to S$20,000 or up to S$30,000 if the dispute has undergone mediation assisted by the unions.

Mediation will play a critical role in the employment dispute resolution process to encourage the parties to resolve the matter amicably. The ECT will only hear cases that have undergone mediation at the Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management. If the mediation is unsuccessful, parties will be given a claim referral certificate to file a claim at the ECT.

Presiding judge of the State Courts, Justice See Kee Oon said, “The State Courts continuously seek to be responsive to the evolving needs of society, and we recognise that certain matters can benefit from a judge-led and less adversarial approach in a tribunal setting.”

“The launch of the ECT is another example of the State Courts’ ongoing efforts to provide better access to justice and serve society,” he concluded.

Photo / 123RF

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