Coronavirus pandemic

Firms urged to back staff who need 2nd job due to Covid-19

NWC: Those cutting salaries should still pay 13th-month bonus, help low-wage workers

NWC said that if firms have to cut pay in order to save jobs, management should lead by example, and they should try as far as possible to still pay the annual wage supplement, or 13th-month bonus.
NWC said that if firms have to cut pay in order to save jobs, management should lead by example, and they should try as far as possible to still pay the annual wage supplement, or 13th-month bonus.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Employers should support local staff who want to take on a second job to supplement their incomes if they have been affected by a shorter work week or temporary layoffs due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the National Wages Council (NWC) said yesterday.

Such workers could be looking for part-time or temporary jobs, said the council, which comprises employer, union and government representatives.

The Ministry of Manpower has uploaded a guide on second-job arrangements on its website. It states that workers can take on a second job unless the employment contract prohibits moonlighting or there is a conflict of interest.

In such cases, "employers are encouraged to waive contractual prohibitions against taking on a second job and help employees resolve conflicts of interest where possible, given that they initiated the reduced work hours and reduced salaries to save costs," the guide states.

"Employees should ensure that they are able to take on both jobs without compromising the interests of each employer and be transparent in terms of the requirements of both jobs to their employers," the guide also says.

NWC also recommended that firms focus on training and upskilling workers, and consider "timebanking", which is to reduce weekly working hours without adjusting wages, with the understanding that workers will work extra hours accordingly in the future.

The NWC's guidelines, which cover the period from tomorrow to June 30 next year, were released ahead of its usual schedule this year amid the worsening impact of the coronavirus outbreak on the local and global economies.

NWC said that if firms have to cut pay in order to save jobs, management should lead by example, and they should try as far as possible to still pay the annual wage supplement, or 13th-month bonus.

Special consideration should be given to low-wage workers earning a basic monthly wage of up to $1,400. Their pay should be frozen rather than cut, if there are company-wide wage cuts, NWC said.

If a wage freeze or increase is planned, they should consider giving low-wage workers a built-in wage increase of up to $50.

They should also give low-wage workers who have stepped up to assist the business during this challenging time an ex-gratia payment where possible.

Among other guidelines was that monthly variable components (MVC) of salaries can be adjusted now if the employer cannot wait until the end of the year to adjust annual variable parts of pay.

For the nearly 90 per cent of employers which do not have an MVC system in place, they can consider treating any cut in basic wages of up to 10 per cent - or more, for management - as an MVC cut.

Employers should set clear guidelines on reversing any reductions to MVC or basic salary through future wage increases or adjustments when business recovers.

And companies that did well last year or are still doing well should continue to reward employees with variable payments in line with the company's performance and workers' contributions.

Companies such as Singapore Airlines, Certis, BreadTalk and Singapore Press Holdings have announced pay cuts for senior management in recent weeks. Others have implemented wage freezes.

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat also announced in his supplementary budget speech last week that the Prime Minister, Cabinet ministers and other political office-holders, and the President, will take a three-month pay cut.

Permanent Secretary for Manpower Aubeck Kam, an NWC member, said yesterday that discussions on pay are ongoing between the Public Service Division and public sector unions, and they are working towards the regular timeline of announcing the decisions and mid-year annual variable component in June.

NWC chairman Peter Seah said the council intends to meet again later this year to address other more permanent issues that it usually works on.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 31, 2020, with the headline 'Firms urged to back staff who need 2nd job due to Covid-19'. Subscribe