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Singapore government accepts TWG’s recommendations for self-employed

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The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has accepted the Tripartite Workgroup’s (TWG) recommendations which helps address common challenges faced by the self-employed persons (SEPs).

Comprising officials from MOM, the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), and the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF), the TWG engaged and consulted about 200 SEPs as well as SEP associations and communities, businesses, and government agencies, to come up with recommendations addressing common challenges including:

Payment-related disputes

  • Developing a Tripartite Standard for engaging SEPs’ services to encourage more businesses to record their agreement with SEPs via a clear written contract.
  • More sector agencies help SEPs and businesses in their sectors mediate their payment-related and other disputes, as an alternative to adjudication, which SEPs already have recourse to.
  • Extending the voluntary mediation services of the Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management (TADM) to SEPs without sector agencies to support mediation.

Loss of income due to prolonged illness or injury

  • Tripartite partners work with the insurance industry to make available insurance products for SEPs which are affordable and cover prolonged illness or injuries from both work and non-work activities.
  • The government promotes the adoption of insurance in higher-risk occupations through licensing controls, or tapping on the government’s role as a service-buyer, where possible.

Lack of CPF savings for healthcare and retirement

  • Adopting a contribute-as-you-earn model whereby a Medisave contribution is required as and when a service fee is earned; and to require intermediaries and corporate service-buyers who contract with an SEP to deduct and transmit the Medisave contribution to the SEPs’ Medisave Account (MA) whenever they pay the SEP.
  • The government further study:
    • How to facilitate this contribute-as-you-earn model given that intermediaries and corporate service-buyers do not have a system to do so today.
    • How such a model can work for matching intermediaries not directly involved in the service fee payment to SEPs.

Lack of occupation-specific competency frameworks

  • The tripartite partners support the SEP associations to enable them to assess SEPs’ skills needs and develop occupation-specific competency frameworks. This will help SEPs keep their skills current, enhance professionalism and make self-employment a sustainable career.

In a letter to the TWG, second minister for manpower Josephine Teo said: “I am pleased to accept the TWG’s recommendations, which will help shape the Government’s strategies to address concerns faced by SEPs. I intend to provide a fuller response during the Committee of Supply parliamentary debates next month. This will include an outline of measures to implement the recommendations and the expected timelines.”

Edwin Lye, TWG member and SNEF group director, industrial relations and workplace partnerships, said: “Companies procure services from SEPs, commonly referred to as freelancers, as they provide flexibility and meet business needs while increasing organisational agility. Therefore, the TWG has taken the balanced approach of not trying to treat SEPs like employees and imposing labour protections which are more suited to regular employment. We believe the recommendations achieve the objectives of promoting innovative business models and providing support for SEPs’ well-being, thereby contributing to a dynamic future economy.”


Definition of self-employed persons (SEPs)

SEPs refer to persons who operate their own trade or business. Those who do not employ any paid worker and are not contributing family members are also known as “own account workers”. “Own account worker” is the more formal term used in MOM’s Labour Force Supplementary Survey on Own Account Workers, and which closely follows the International Labour Organisation’s classification of Status in Employment. SEPs are also known loosely as “freelancers” or “independent contractors”.

SEPs work in diverse occupations and include taxi drivers, real estate agents, insurance agents, private hire car drivers and private tutors.

SEPs are not casual, temporary, or term-contract employees who are on employment contracts for fixed periods of time

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