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Law protects employees from working excessive hours

  • TODAY (24 October 2011): Law protects employees from working excessive hours
  • TODAY (18 October 2011): Prolonged work without rest should not be industry norm

Law protects employees from working excessive hours
- TODAY, 24 October 2011

The Ministry of Manpower shares Mdm Nur Hidayah Zulkifli's concerns raised in her letter (TODAY, Voices, 18 October 2011) on the employment conditions at her brothers' workplaces.

2.   We have contacted Mdm Hidayah through TODAY, to understand her concerns and advise her on the avenues available should her brothers wish to lodge complaints on their employment-related concerns. They may email or call the MOM hotline at 64385122.

3.   Both local and foreign workers in Singapore are protected from excessive working hours under the Employment Act (EA). They should not be contractually required to work more than 8 hours in a day or 44 hours in a week. If they are required to work overtime, employees should be paid 1.5 times their hourly basic rate of pay. Even then, employees should not be required to work more than 12 hours a day or more than 72 hours of overtime a month.

4.   Employers who require their employees to work more than 12 hours a day or more than 72 hours of overtime a month will have to apply to the Ministry for exemption. Under the Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Act, employers must conduct proper risk assessment of the jobs. Exemption may be given when jobs are assessed by MOM to be low risk, taking into consideration factors such as safety, the company's employment records as well as views of both workers and unions. Even when such exemptions are granted, employers should not compel employees to work overtime.

5.   It is important that employers plan and manage employees' work schedules properly to protect workers from fatigue at work. Working overtime and without adequate rest reduces a person’s alertness, compromise his mental and physical work performance, leading to WSH risks. MOM urges employers to adhere to the WSH Council’s Guidelines on fatigue management, which include recommendations on identifying signs of fatigue, improving work environments and redesigning work practices to reduce fatigue.

6.   Employees who wish to find out more about the EA may refer to MOM's website. More information on the Fatigue Management is available here.

Prolonged work without rest should not be industry norm
- TODAY, 18 October 2011

Based on Manpower Ministry statistics, the construction industry has one of the highest fatality rates in Singapore. And two weeks ago, we read about the death of a 21-year-old safety officer while discharging his duties.

Recently, two of my brothers joined a local company and a multi-national corporation, respectively, in the industry. Both have to work long hours, with one working 12-hour shifts, six days a week.

Whenever they work Sundays, the one in the local company is given a day off in lieu, while the other is paid a paltry overtime sum and expected to continue working the next week, that is, a total of 13 consecutive days.

They were told these were common construction industry practices and that the workers and drivers have it worse, sometimes working for weeks without any rest days. Working long hours without rest will slowly take its toll on the body and impair judgment.

While the authorities are encouraging work-life balance, there are groups that are left out. Do we close one eye for the sake of production and wait for mishaps, followed by complaints from the public, before action is taken?