Dispute management office recovers $16m in owed salaries, compensation for wrongful dismissal

About 91 per cent of the 6,537 employees who made claims had their cases fully resolved. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - Employees who made claims for owed salaries or wrongful dismissal between last April and March this year managed to recover about $16 million in all from their employers.

About 91 per cent of the 6,537 employees who made claims had their cases fully resolved at the Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management (TADM) and the Employment Claims Tribunals. They received the full sums of salaries owed or compensation.

This was revealed by the Tripartite Alliance Limited on Wednesday (Oct 21) in its annual report for the year ended March 31.

In the previous financial year, TADM recovered around $15 million in salaries owed to employees in Singapore, with about 90 per cent of employees who filed claims fully recovering their salaries.

The Tripartite Alliance Limited was set up by the Ministry of Manpower, National Trades Union Congress and Singapore National Employers Federation in 2016.

It oversees TADM, the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (Tafep), and the Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Council.

Last April, the Employment Act and the Employment Claims Act were amended to allow all employees - including those who earn more than $4,500 a month - to file claims against their employers for wrongful dismissal.

This meant that more managers and executives were protected under the law against wrongful dismissal.

Workers who wish to make a wrongful dismissal claim must first undergo mediation with their employers at TADM. If this is unsuccessful, they will be referred to the Employment Claims Tribunals.

Since the changes, 1,958 employees had sought advice from TADM on suspected wrongful dismissal between April last year and March this year, said the Tripartite Alliance Limited on Wednesday.

Of these, 831 employees were offered mediation services, and most of them reached mutually acceptable solutions with their employers without having to escalate the dispute for adjudication at the Employment Claims Tribunals.

Most of the dismissal claims lodged involved rank-and-file employees who were dismissed without notice, or where the reasons for dismissal were disputed by employees. These cases were resolved through mediation with TADM's help, said the Tripartite Alliance Limited.

In cases where workers were terminated in accordance to their employment contracts, TADM referred them to the Employment Claims Tribunals for adjudication without mediation.

Meanwhile, there was a 42 per cent increase in workplace discrimination or harassment complaints to Tafep, with one in four complaints related to fair consideration for Singaporeans in hiring practices.

One in 10 complaints was related to age discrimination and one in 13 complaints was related to gender discrimination.

The Tripartite Alliance Limited said the increase in complaints was due to the expanded scope of issues handled by Tafep, which includes workplace harassment and unfair contractual terms including liquidated damages and restraint of trade.

"The enhanced fair consideration framework which put up harsher penalties on employers for discriminatory hiring practices also contributed to the increase," the tripartite alliance added in its report.

The WSH Council has also brought more companies on board its workplace safety and health programmes such as bizSAFE and cultureSAFE.

Tripartite Alliance Limited chairman Stephen Lee said that as of May this year, about 90 of its employees have taken on various roles to fight Covid-19, such as supporting the Ministry of Manpower's operations in foreign worker dormitories.

"Now, more than ever, the spirit of cooperation and partnership in tripartism has proven to be invaluable. Employers, workers and the Government need to work together to save jobs, adapt to new ways of working, and support national efforts to contain the spread of the virus and mitigate its effects," he said in the report.

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