In a Parliamentary sitting, Teo Ser Luck, Minister of State for Manpower, confirmed that foreigners in Singapore, i.e. work permit holders, may not engage in any part-time work.

The comment was in response to a question by Member of Parliament, Louis Ng Kok Kwang, asking if the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) will consider allowing work permit holders to engage in part-time work, considering Singapore’s current labour shortage.

Minister Teo cited several reasons for the policy decision, the first one being that employers are expected to bring in work permit holders for specific, full-time jobs. "Work permit holders should not have the time to engage in part-time work on top of the work for their primary employer," he said.

Second, allowing part-time work may put work permit holders at risk of exploitation, especially if employers offer their work permit holders to do part-time work for other firms.

Third, allowing part-time work may increase the overall demand for work permit holders, which would run counter to the national effort to prevent over-reliance on foreign manpower.

Finally, he said allowing work permit holders to do part-time work is likely to increase competition with locals for freelance jobs or part-time work.

Question: Disguised retrenchments to avoid paying benefits

Minister for Manpower, Lim Swee Say, responded to two questions around expected layoffs in 2016, and how to address employers' utilising "disguised retrenchments" to avoid paying retrenchment benefits.

For the former, he pointed out that 11,890 workers have been retrenched from Q1 to Q3 this year, compared to 8,590 in the same period last year. In total, 13,440 workers were retrenched last year and he expects the number to be higher this year.

On the latter question, Minister Lim noted: "There is no clear evidence that irresponsible retrenchment is on the rise. Under the Employment Act, an employee who has served less than two years is not entitled to retrenchment benefits.

"For those who have served more than 2 years, payment of retrenchment benefits is mandatory if it is specified in their individual employment contracts or the collective agreements negotiated by their unions."

He cited the last survey conducted in 2013, where nine out of 10 companies with more than 25 employees pay retrenchment benefits, at a norm of two weeks to one month of salary for each year of service. Another survey is underway, he said, and the findings will be ready by end of the year.

In 2015, MOM received 94 cases in total from employees with retrenchment-related issues, compared to 63 such cases received in the first three quarters of this year, of which the number of appeals is 14.

"On the whole, these cases account for a small proportion of the total number of local employees retrenched in 2015 and 2016 so far," he said.

Question: Why candidates have to declare a history of mental illness

Minister Lim was asked the Government’s position on employers requiring candidates to declare if they have a history of mental illness, and whether the Government should lead by example by removing such declarations from public service employment application forms for non-sensitive positions.

In response, he referred to the Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices, that state job application forms should only ask for information relevant to assessing an applicant’s suitability for the job.

Regarding the Government, candidates' declaration of any existing medical conditions, including mental illness, does not disqualify them from being considered for a position in the Public Service. "

Public agencies will select the candidate with the best overall fit for the job, taking into account his skills and qualifications, relevant work experience and personal attributes," Minister Lim said.

Question: What can employers do when a FDW abandons the work agreement?

MP Sylvia Lim asked the Minister for Manpower what recourse an employer of a foreign domestic worker (FDW) have where the worker has abandoned her work agreement and owes sums to her employer.

In his reply, Minister Lim advises employers to check the contract they signed with their employement agency (EA) in case the FDW terminates employment prematurely.

Personal loans are usually extended by an employer to the FDW to help him/her pay placement fees to the local EA.  The EA Licence Conditions require EAs to state refund policies in their contracts with employers, including refunds for loans.

"There are also EAs who do not require employers to extend personal loans to the FDWs; so the issue of a refund does not even arise," he clarified.

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