Slowing economy prompts earlier MOM poll

Singapore's slowing economy has prompted the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) to bring forward to this year a retrenchment survey that was scheduled for next year.

The scope of the survey, held every four years, has been widened as well to include smaller companies employing between 10 and 24 workers, said Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say in Parliament yesterday.

Previously, only companies with at least 25 workers were polled.

Mr Lim also said, in his reply to Mr Patrick Tay (West Coast GRC), that nine out of 10 companies pay retrenchment benefits.

Citing the latest retrenchment survey done in 2013, Mr Lim said 90 per cent of companies that retrenched workers in 2012 paid them benefits.

Of these, 68 per cent were in the manufacturing, wholesale and retail trade, and financial and insurance service sectors.

And 80 per cent of the companies that gave retrenchment benefits were non-unionised, while two-thirds were small and medium-sized enterprises.

The survey also showed the norm is to pay retrenchment benefits of between two weeks and one month of salary for each year of service.

Mr Lim noted that the Employment Act does not mandate the payment of retrenchment benefits, and the amount paid is left to the employer's discretion.

But the "vast majority of employers with 25 or more employees do pay retrenchment benefits commensurate with the industry norm", he said.

Mr Lim also said workers who are retrenched unfairly can turn to his ministry or their unions for help.

Those who are not union members can seek recourse in the civil courts, or the Employment Claims Tribunal which will be set up in April next year.

Mr Tay also urged the ministry to pay more attention to cases of "disguised retrenchments", in which companies quietly lay off people in small numbers with a "golden handshake" or by making it seem the workers had resigned voluntarily.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 14, 2016, with the headline 'Slowing economy prompts earlier MOM poll'. Print Edition | Subscribe