Parliament: Employment Claims Tribunals will hear 2 types of wrongful dismissal claims, says Josephine Teo

Currently, workers can refer salary-related disputes to the tribunals, while wrongful dismissal claims go before the Manpower Ministry, even though both types of disputes are often linked.
Currently, workers can refer salary-related disputes to the tribunals, while wrongful dismissal claims go before the Manpower Ministry, even though both types of disputes are often linked.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - The Employment Act provides protection from two types of wrongful dismissal: the first is dismissal on grounds other than poor performance, misconduct or redundancy, while the second involves pregnant employees whose contracts are terminated without their receiving maternity benefits.

Second Manpower Minister Josephine Teo gave this definition in Parliament on Monday (March 19), in response to Mr Louis Ng (Nee Soon GRC), who asked what is considered "wrongful" or "unfair" dismissal under the Act.

After the Act is amended, both types of wrongful dismissal claims will be heard by the Employment Claims Tribunals, said Mrs Teo.

Currently, wrongful dismissal claims go before the Manpower Ministry, while workers can refer salary-related disputes to the tribunals, even though both types of disputes are often linked.

Amendments to the Act will be debated in Parliament later this year and, if passed, the changes to the Act will be implemented by April 1 next year, Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say had said during the debate on his ministry's budget earlier this month. The Act is also being extended through the removal of its salary cap, so that its basic provisions - such as compensation for unfair dismissal - cover all workers.

Mr Ng also asked whether the tribunals can recognise damages that go beyond the notice period to include the "mental and emotional anguish" suffered by the former employee.

In response, Mrs Teo said that it is up to the Employment Claims Tribunals to assess the situation, depending on what is presented by the claimant in terms of the range of losses suffered.

 

The tribunals will also look into constructive dismissals - where an employer treats an employer so badly that they have to resign - and forced resignations, said Mrs Teo, answering Mr Patrick Tay (West Coast GRC).

But wrongful dismissal does not include non-renewals of contracts and non-confirmation during probation, as there is already an agreement that employment may not continue after the contract or probation period, she said. However, if any contract terms were not met, the employee can bring the matter up to the Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management, which provides mediation services.

Mrs Teo added that the ministry will work with employers and the labour movement to produce a set of answers to frequently asked questions on what amounts to an unfair dismissal.

Existing tripartite guidelines on fair employment practices state that a decision to dismiss an employee should be based on documented poor performance or misconduct.