Tactics to avoid paying workers overtime are deceitful

Misclassifying employees in order to make them not qualify for overtime pay is indeed a deceitful tactic to shortchange workers ('PMEs' with inflated titles shortchanged, says labour MP; June 21).

It is not uncommon to meet an assistant manager who does not manage anyone, a store manager who sweeps floors and stocks shelves, or a vice-president who is not in charge of anything.

This is just one of the tricks employers use just because the company does not want to pay them extra.

Another trick is to require employees to arrive early to boot up computers, configure programs or do some other preparation so they are ready to go when their working hours officially start.

Such work may take up to 30 minutes or more. Workers may similarly have to stay back after their working hours to shut down the system.

Others who are in customer service have to take any call that comes in during their shift, but have to stay until the matter is resolved, even if it is after their shift ends.

All this results in them working longer than the eight hours that they are officially scheduled and paid to do.

Some workers are given time off later instead of being paid for the extra hours worked.

Is such compensation legal? What are the consequences of violating the rules on overtime pay?

Workers should track all the hours they have worked and all the work they did.

If they are given fancy job titles that do not accurately describe what they really do, they should report it to the Ministry of Manpower to determine if it is a misclassification.

Employees should note that every term in a contract which provides a condition of service that is less favourable to them than those prescribed under the Employment Act is illegal, null and void.

Cheng Choon Fei

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 23, 2018, with the headline 'Tactics to avoid paying workers overtime are deceitful'. Print Edition | Subscribe