Mediation to the rescue after former employer seeks damages

Madam Zhang, who wanted a transfer to a different childcare centre branch, was told to pay damages for breaking her scholarship bond.
Madam Zhang, who wanted a transfer to a different childcare centre branch, was told to pay damages for breaking her scholarship bond. She is now working for a new employer, Mulberry.ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

When childcare teacher Zhang Ju, 47, tried to leave the centre where she was working last year, her employer told her to pay damages for breaking her scholarship bond.

The company had sponsored her degree studies, which cost about $10,000, and she was serving a two-year bond at one of its childcare centres.

But close to seven months into the bond, she wanted to transfer to a different branch, owing to disagreements with her centre's principal.

Her employer sought liquidated damages from Madam Zhang for breaking the scholarship bond.

The Singaporean, who has worked in childcare for about 10 years, was anxious and turned to the Manpower Ministry for help.

"I was very willing to continue working in that company, just in a different centre," she said.

Through a pilot run of the Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management, which begins full operations today, Madam Zhang and her former employer went for two mediation sessions lasting about two hours each.

It emerged that she had tendered her resignation in the letter she submitted, when she in fact wanted a transfer.

Recognising that Madam Zhang was a dedicated teacher who wanted to continue in childcare, the employer agreed to waive its claim for liquidated damages.

Madam Zhang is now working for another childcare company, Mulberry, but said she is grateful for the chance to upgrade her skills through the scholarship. She said: "Now I'm able to work happily and professionally."


Joanna Seow

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 01, 2017, with the headline 'Mediation to the rescue after former employer seeks damages'. Print Edition | Subscribe