Minimum monthly EP salary up $300 to $3,900 to ensure level field

Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said that employers should continue to ensure that they have fair and merit-based pay practices in line with the Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

The salary criteria for hiring foreign workers on an Employment Pass will be raised from May, as part of efforts to assure Singaporeans that they are competing on a level playing field.

The minimum monthly salary for foreign professionals to qualify for an Employment Pass (EP) will go up from $3,600 to $3,900.

"This increase is in line with improving wages of fresh graduates of local autonomous universities," said Manpower Minister Josephine Teo in Parliament yesterday.

The salary criteria for older and more experienced EP candidates will also be raised - for example, an applicant in his early 40s will have to earn around double the new minimum qualifying salary of $3,900.

"This is only fair, considering the skill sets he or she is expected to have," Mrs Teo said. "It helps to ensure a level playing field for experienced local mid-career PMETs (professionals, managers, executives and technicians)."

For EP renewals, the new salary requirement will take effect only from May 1 next year, "to moderate the impact on businesses".

The minimum EP qualifying salary was last raised in 2017, from $3,300 to $3,600 a month.

In addition, the minimum salary a local worker must earn to count towards a firm's quota for hiring foreigners on work permits and S Passes will be raised from $1,300 to $1,400 from July. It was raised from $1,200 last July, and has been regularly updated "to ensure that it keeps pace with rising local wages at the local end", Mrs Teo said.

She noted that most employers of foreign workers are not affected as they do not have local workers earning below $1,400, but those who are should receive some relief from the Wage Credit Scheme.

Employers should continue to ensure they have fair and merit-based pay practices that are in line with the Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices, she added.

She said the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) is aware of firms that raise salaries of EP holders only to meet new salary criteria while freezing salaries of local workers, even if the locals are better workers. Such employers risk having their work-pass privileges curtailed and also undermine efforts to retain local employees, she said.

She also announced that MOM will be stepping up measures to ensure fair hiring consideration in the workplace. Under the Fair Consideration Framework (FCF), which was updated in January with stiffer penalties for discriminatory hiring practices - particularly those against Singaporeans - employers have to advertise job openings on national jobs portal before submitting EP applications.

From May, this advertising requirement will be expanded to include jobs paying up to $20,000 a month, an increase from the current $15,000. "Positions that are more senior remain exempted as they are more likely to be market-sensitive," Mrs Teo said.

She highlighted that firms should not take the advertising requirement as a paper exercise, noting that MOM has started to use data analytics to scrutinise EP applications and actively follow up on leads provided by whistle-blowers.

Giving an update on instances of unfair hiring,she said about 1,000 firms have been put on the FCF watch list, up from 600 firms last year. Since the list was introduced in 2016, 3,000 EP applications have been rejected or withheld by MOM, or withdrawn by employers, while firms on the list have hired more than 4,400 Singaporean PMETs, she noted.

She added that MOM has also taken action against 18 more firms that violated Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 04, 2020, with the headline Minimum monthly EP salary up $300 to $3,900 to ensure level field. Subscribe