Contract workers entitled to leave perks

Last year, 202,400 Singaporeans and permanent residents were employed on term contracts, making up 11.3 per cent of the resident workforce.
Last year, 202,400 Singaporeans and permanent residents were employed on term contracts, making up 11.3 per cent of the resident workforce.PHOTO: REUTERS

Sufficient notice should also be given if contract is not renewed, state new guidelines

SINGAPORE - Contract workers who have worked in the same firm for three months or more are entitled to statutory leave benefits.

It is also good practice for both employers and employees to give sufficient notice if either side decides not to renew the contract.

These clarifications were made under new guidelines released yesterday by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), the labour movement and the Singapore National Employers Federation, which noted that contract workers are "a small but important part of the workforce".

Last year, 202,400 Singaporeans and permanent residents were employed on term contracts, making up 11.3 per cent of the resident workforce - a rate that has mostly held steady in the last 10 years.

Some contract workers working for the same employer for a long time do not currently enjoy benefits such as annual leave, sick leave or childcare leave, as they are on separate contracts shorter than three months and renewed with a break in between, the statement added.

"Hopefully, these guidelines can help close the loophole where fixed- term employees can be short- changed by unscrupulous employers who deliberately break their contracts to deny them their statutory employment benefits," said National Trades Union Congress assistant secretary-general Zainal Sapari.

Under the guidelines, employers are encouraged to treat contracts renewed within a month as continuous, and grant leave benefits based on the cumulative term of contracts, for those of 14 days or more. Bosses could pro-rate leave based on the cumulative duration of the contract.

For instance, an employee working for the same firm on three consecutive month-long contracts is entitled in his fourth month to benefits like two days of paid annual leave, based on seven days of paid annual leave a year. He qualifies as long as he does not take a combined break of a month or longer in the three months. The breaks do not count towards his length of service.

Employers should keep to the notice period for early termination in the contract, according to the guidelines. If the clause was not included, employers can check the MOM website on what they should do.

Mr Zainal said the new guidelines "must be monitored closely for adherence". A legislative approach should be considered if moral suasion did not work, he added.

Mr Erman Tan, president of the Singapore Human Resource Institute, welcomed the guidelines, saying members have asked how to administer leave for temporary staff.

A 64-year-old cleaner, who gave his name only as Mr Eng, has been on several contracts - of one and three months in duration - for the same employer in the past year, and did not know he is entitled to leave.

He said: "I will ask my boss about it. Hopefully, they will allow me to backdate my leave and take a couple of days off so I can stay at home and spend time with my wife."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 21, 2016, with the headline 'Contract workers entitled to leave perks'. Print Edition | Subscribe