SINGAPORE - More help for retrenched workers is on the way.
From Jan 1 next year, employers must notify the Manpower Ministry (MOM) of retrenchments within five working days. This affects all companies with at least 10 employees where five or more employees are retrenched within any six-month period, Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say said on Friday (Nov 25).
"Our top concern is employment support, because the long-term unemployed rate has been creeping up, at the same time the rate of re-entry (into employment) has been coming down," said Mr Lim.
"The sooner employers can report to us, the sooner we can reach out to retrenched workers, and the sooner we can put them under employment support."
Employers who do not notify MOM in time can face warnings and penalties including a fine of up to $5,000.
It is an offence under the Workforce Singapore Agency Act not to comply because the agency requires the information to carry out one of its functions which is "to promote and facilitate employment and re-employment in Singapore through services and facilities that help citizens and residents of Singapore find and keep jobs".
Speaking to reporters at the Lifelong Learning Institute in Paya Lebar, Mr Lim said there had been negotiations between the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) and Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) as the unions wanted all employers to provide notification before retrenchments, as is practised in unionised companies. Employers said this would be too difficult to predict with such accuracy, hence a compromise was reached to have notification made immediately after retrenchments.
He added that the details which need to be reported are kept to just four per worker - NRIC, residential status, job designation and date of retrenchment - so that the process is not too onerous for small businesses without big HR departments.
The ministry will be able to enforce the mandatory reporting by verifying the numbers with its quarterly surveys which are compulsory for companies with at least 25 employees, he said.
The information gathered will be passed to a taskforce set up in March this year to look into helping Singaporeans get back into jobs.
Called the Taskforce for Responsible Retrenchment and Employment Facilitation, it is led by Workforce Singapore (WSG) and also comprises MOM, NTUC and NTUC's Employment and Employability Institute (e2i).
A total of 200 companies reported retrenchments to MOM so far this year, which allowed the taskforce to offer assistance to 3,000 people, said its chairman Tan Choon Shian, who is also WSG chief executive.
Of these, about 2,000 requested career support and about 60 per cent of them were placed in jobs.
MOM, NTUC and SNEF also issued an advisory on Friday listing out guidelines for responsible retrenchment practices. These are:
- fair selection of employees to be retrenched;
- early consultation with unions;
- letting affected employees know early;
- notify MOM;
- provide fair retrenchment benefits, and
- extend assistance in finding the next job.