5 ways to better support platform workers in Singapore: Highlights from committee report

The new policies will take effect progressively from the second half of 2024. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Aiming to improve the lives of about 73,200 platform workers here, an advisory committee released a report containing 12 recommendations on Wednesday.

The report by the Advisory Committee on Platform Workers, which was convened by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) in September 2021, includes proposals for better workplace injury compensation and consistent Central Provident Fund (CPF) contributions, among others.

The new policies, which have been accepted by the Government, will take effect progressively from the second half of 2024.

Here are five highlights from the report:

1. Ensuring platform workers receive adequate financial protection in case of work injury

The report said that compared to workers in sectors such as logistics, platform workers do not have adequate financial protection if they are injured at work.

It noted that while some platform companies voluntarily provide them with compensation, such as through personal accident insurance, coverage is uneven and not up to what employees are entitled to under the Work Injury Compensation Act (Wica).

For example, the coverage that platforms offer for death or permanent disability is largely in the $10,000 to $30,000 range, compared with employees’ entitlement under Wica of up to $289,000. 

The committee recommended that all platform companies be required to provide the same scope and level of work injury compensation as employees are entitled to under Wica.

2. In case of injury, platforms should compensate workers for all lost earnings

It is common for platform workers to be on multiple platforms.

In case of injury, said the report, the worker should be compensated for all potential earnings in that platform’s sector.

This means the platform has to compensate for all lost earnings, which include what the worker would have earned from other platforms during the period they could not work due to their injury.

This is similar to compensation for employees under Wica, which obliges the company at which the worker sustained the work injury to compensate him based on his average monthly earnings from all his employers, noted the report.

The report also recommended that a commonly accepted definition of what it means for a platform worker to be “at work” be created, to include factors such as waiting time in between jobs and when goods are held in storage before being delivered, among others.

3. Mandatory CPF contributions by platform companies to those under 30, opt-in for older workers

To help platform workers set aside the same level of CPF savings for housing and retirement as employees with similar earnings in other sectors, the committee proposed that platform companies that exert significant level of management control over platform workers should provide CPF contributions at the same rates as employers.

It also proposed that platform workers align their CPF contribution rates to that of employees.

This increased CPF contribution would be required for all platform workers aged below 30 once this rule is implemented. The measure is meant to target those who can benefit the most from it immediately, as younger platform workers are more likely to have housing obligations or plans to buy a house.

The committee noted that while platform workers will likely see higher total earnings due to additional CPF contributions, their take-home pay may drop.

Older cohorts of platform workers aged 30 and above can also opt in to the same CPF contribution regime once it is implemented, if they wish to do so.

The Government has to determine the rate at which it phases in the increased CPF contributions over five years, for both mandatory cohorts and opt-in cohorts.

4. Mechanism for regular, not just yearly, MediSave contributions to be developed

About one in five platform workers has not been keeping up to date with his MediSave contributions, according to the report.

It recommended that platform companies work with the Government to develop a mechanism to deduct CPF contributions from platform workers’ earnings as and when the platform workers receive their income.

It added that this should be designed to be simple to implement and use. This would include the deduction of MediSave contributions for all platform workers, including those who do not choose to opt in to the full CPF contribution regime stated above.

Currently, platform workers, like other self-employed people, are required to contribute up to 8 per cent to 10.5 per cent of their net trade income into their MediSave account to support their healthcare needs, the report noted. 

However, some run into cashflow problems as their net trade income is only declared the following year, and they may not have earned enough to make the contributions.

5. Ensuring increased representation for platform workers

Platform workers should be able to form new representative bodies to formally seek a mandate to represent workers, proposed the report. They can then negotiate and enter into binding agreements with platform companies.

Currently, platform workers have formed associations such as the National Private Hire Vehicles Association and National Delivery Champions Association that are engaging platform companies on workers’ concerns, but these bodies rely on informal agreements.

Unlike unions, there is no legislative framework that allows these associations to formally represent workers, so agreements are not binding and there are no formal dispute resolution processes.

Legislative changes will be made to enable platform workers’ right to formal representation.

A Tripartite Workgroup on Representation for Platform Workers was also set up in August 2022 to co-create the new representation framework.

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