Why It Matters

'Gig' workers get their due

On Monday, a new standard specifying better working conditions for term contract workers was launched - covering areas such as notice period, training and benefits.

The standard addresses common complaints among such contract workers.

Many of them do not enjoy leave benefits like their colleagues in regular or permanent work. Sometimes, they are blatantly short-changed.

The launch is not only good news for the 10 per cent of resident employees, or about 170,000 workers, on such contracts. It is also good news for Singapore workers in general, as the world moves towards one in which independent or "gig" work is increasingly common and, in future, perhaps the norm.

Already, 296 firms have signed on to the standard, which was jointly developed by the Manpower Ministry, National Trades Union Congress and the Singapore National Employers Federation.

The early adopters include OCBC Bank, DBS Bank, Coca-Cola Singapore, Singapore Press Holdings, Resorts World Sentosa and law firm Rajah & Tann.

Under the standard, employers are encouraged to treat contracts of 14 days or more and renewed within one month of the previous contract as continuous, and grant or accrue leave benefits based on the cumulative term of the contracts.

Employers can pro-rate annual leave, sick leave and childcare leave benefits based on the length of the term contract. Progressive employers will also give appropriate notice in cases of early termination or non-renewal of contract.

This is a promising start, but there is still a long way to go.

By 2020, experts expect some 40 per cent of the workforce in the United States to be independent workers or freelancers, up from about 20 per cent to 30 per cent today. This is a global trend likely to be reflected across the world, they note.

It is time for employers here to sit up and take notice of this issue.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 05, 2017, with the headline ''Gig' workers get their due'. Print Edition | Subscribe