Ex-Harry's COO fined $40k over hiring scheme

Kaur got an assistant HR manager to make employment pass applications citing high salaries for 20 workers from India who were actually hired for work permit positions.
Kaur got an assistant HR manager to make employment pass applications citing high salaries for 20 workers from India who were actually hired for work permit positions.PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

She hatched plan to get around work permit quota by falsely declaring salaries of foreign employees

Facing a manpower shortage, a former chief operating officer of a well-established bar and dining chain hatched a plan to hire foreign workers who were subject to a quota by pretending they were employment pass hires which are not subject to a quota.

In June 2012, Parmjit Kaur, 49, told employment agents for Harry's International to look for foreign workers, who would be offered a monthly pay of $3,100. However, these workers would have to return more than half of their salaries as "reimbursements" for transportation and meal expenses.

Kaur, who was also a Harry's director, wanted to bring the workers in on employment passes supposedly to circumvent the quota for work permit holders, who are lower-skilled and draw less salary.

Yesterday, Kaur was fined $40,000 after she pleaded guilty to five charges under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act.

She admitted to 15 other counts of the same charge and these were considered in sentencing.

A district court heard that Kaur had first asked an assistant human resource manager to declare in the company's employment pass applications that the foreign employees would be given a fixed monthly salary of $3,000.

This was, at the time, the minimum salary requirement for employment pass holders, who are foreign professionals, managers and executives. Approval was not granted for the applications, so Kaur instructed that a higher sum of $3,100 be declared.

Between April and September 2013, Harry's falsely declared to the Controller of Work Passes that 20 foreign workers would be hired as restaurant chefs de partie at a fixed salary of $3,100 each.

Employment passes were issued to 20 Indian nationals.

The workers' pay was credited into their bank accounts on the first day of every month, but they had to return $1,600 to Harry's finance department the next day.

Meals and transportation were provided for only some workers and, even when provided, did not add up to $1,600.

In October 2013, a Ministry of Manpower employment inspector discovered the offences after receiving a tip-off.

Kaur, who was charged in November last year, could have been fined $20,000 and jailed for two years on each charge.

Harry's International is wholly owned by F&B Asia Ventures. Kaur is no longer with the company.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 21, 2016, with the headline 'Ex-Harry's COO fined $40k over hiring scheme'. Print Edition | Subscribe