Not easy to classify workers with single test

File photo showing an office crowd in the central business district.
File photo showing an office crowd in the central business district.PHOTO: ST FILE

We refer to Ms Corinna Lim and Mr Heng Cho Choon's letters (Employee or independent contractor - law needs to be clear, Jan 4; and Not possible for law to be exact in classifying workers, Jan 8) on the legal test to distinguish between an employee and a self-employed person.

Whether a worker is an employee depends on the level of control that the company exercises over him.

As noted by Mr Heng, given the wide variety of work situations, no single factor can be used.

Rather, a range of factors is used, such as whether:

• The company has the obligation to provide work for the worker

• The worker is obliged to accept work assigned by the company

• The individual is required to personally carry out the work

• The equipment and tools used to perform the work are provided by the company and

• The extent to which the worker needs to comply with the company's procedures and prescribed method of work.

• Whether the work is performed part-or full-time or that the contract itself states that the worker is an independent contractor is irrelevant.

This practice is not only consistent with that in other developed economies, but it also reduces the risk that some companies may alter their work arrangements to avoid employment obligations while substantively still retaining control over the worker.

In most situations, individuals work for employers under a clear contract of service with no ambiguity about their employment status or rights.

Parties who are unclear about the nature of their contract, or rights and obligations, should seek clarification before accepting it.

They can also approach the Ministry of Manpower or the Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management for assistance.

We take stern action against employers who misclassify their employees as self-employed persons in order to avoid their statutory obligations, and have helped about 100 such employees in the last three years recover their statutory entitlements.

Then Yee Thoong

Divisional Director

Labour Relations and Workplaces Division

Ministry of Manpower

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 16, 2019, with the headline 'Not easy to classify workers with single test'. Print Edition | Subscribe