The Labour Court can order an employer to pay a worker what he is owed, but cannot enforce the order because it is a matter between the worker and employer.
Such salary recovery matters are "civil claims", a Ministry of Manpower (MOM) spokesman said.
MOM gets about 4,500 salary claims by foreign workers a year, "less than 0.4 per cent" of the foreign workforce. Nine in 10 of them are settled through mediation. The rest go to the Labour Court.
"Most employers comply with Labour Court orders. They are debarred from employing new foreign workers at least until they have done so," the MOM said.
The rest were mostly in financial trouble or had ceased operations.
Workers can try to enforce the order by applying to the State Courts to seize the employer's assets and sell them off. About 10 workers do so each year, and MOM will give advice and help with paperwork.
The costs incurred can be recovered. But MOM said: "Workers should have a realistic expectation of what could be recovered from a company which has ceased operations."
Mr Islam should not have let the unpaid salary pile up, it added. "The likelihood of salary recovery would have been higher if the worker had come forward earlier instead of allowing the sum owed to accumulate and the firm to rack up higher debts to other creditors," it said.
Toh Yong Chuan