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Changes to the terms and conditions of employment have to be mutually agreed upon by employer and employee

  • Lianhe Zaobao (16 March 2019): Questions on reducing the number of working days

Changes to the terms and conditions of employment have to be mutually agreed upon by employer and employee
- Lianhe Zaobao, 29 March 2019

  1. We thank Mr Leong Mun Ngo for his letter (“Questions on reducing the number of working days”, 16 Mar 2019).
  2. Our employment laws outline the basic terms and conditions of employment, statutory requirements that employers must comply with, as well as the rights and responsibilities of employers and employees under a contract of service. While the Employment Act does not stipulate the minimum hours of work, it sets the parameters on the maximum hours of work so as to protect the interest and well-being of vulnerable workers.
  3. Employment contracts lay out agreed employment terms and conditions between the employer and the employee. Employers therefore cannot make changes to these contracts without employees’ consent. If the employment terms and conditions need to be changed, both employers and employees should try to negotiate and reach an acceptable agreement, taking into consideration business needs and the concerns of the employees. In the event that no agreement can be reached, the initial contractual terms and conditions must remain unchanged but either party can serve notice and end the employment relationship.
  4. Under the law, an employer who wishes to reduce the monthly salary of an S pass holder must submit a request to the Controller of Work Passes, who will reassess the foreign employee’s S pass eligibility. If the foreign employee is assessed to no longer be eligible for the S pass he holds, the employer must obtain a valid work pass for that employee based on the reduced monthly salary. Otherwise, the employer cannot implement the reduced salary. The employer may then choose to terminate the contract and repatriate the employee after paying all outstanding salaries. Employers who reduce an S pass holder’s monthly salary without the Controller’s approval may face a fine of up to $10,000 and/or imprisonment of up to 12 months.
  5. If a company is undergoing structural changes and employees may lose their jobs in the process, employers should communicate this to employees early and in a sensitive manner. Employers should also work with agencies such as Workforce Singapore and the Employment and Employability Institute (e2i) to provide employment facilitation to affected employees.
  6. MOM has since contacted Mr Leong regarding his concerns. Members of the public may contact MOM for advice or access more information on our employment laws through the MOM website (https://www.mom.gov.sg/employment-practices/employment-act).

Then Yee Thoong (Mr)
Divisional Director
Labour Relations and Workplaces Division
Ministry of Manpower


Translated letter

Questions on reducing the number of working days
- Lianhe Zaobao, 16 March 2019

  1. One month before Chinese New Year, a company wanted all its employees to sign on a notification letter. The contents of the letter indicated that, in order to reduce its expenses, the company would be reducing the number of working days of its employees from the next month onwards – administrative staff’s working days would be reduced from 5 to 4 days, and for deliverymen, their working days would be reduced from 5.5 to 5 days. The company would reduce their salaries accordingly.
  2. One question is, can existing employees continue working if they do not sign the letter? My friend said, not signing the letter would naturally mean that the employee has to leave. I said, the employee did not make any mistakes, and it was the employer that wanted to change the employment terms, why should the employee have to leave? He said, the employee is in the wrong if he does not want to cooperate. Even though the number of working days are fewer, the employee would at least still have an income if he continues working. If the employee has been working for the company for many years, he should be content and grateful, and tide over difficulties together with the company.
  3. I thought about it, and if the employee sees the company as a second home, then what my friend said is not wrong.
  4. Reducing the number of working days is not the same as docking salaries, and I understand that MOM allows this. However, this move might make life difficult for those who have to provide for the elderly and the young, or foreign workers who have to pay housing rent. Given that they neither have the 13th-month bonus, or end-of-year bonus, would they have enough money? Are they wasting their youth if they work only 4 days a week? No wonder before and after Chinese New Year, a few more experienced young colleagues chose to resign.
  5. Employment laws stipulate that workers cannot work more than 44 hours a week, and even with overtime, they cannot work more than 12 hours a day. Do the employment laws also stipulate the minimum number of working days a week? If S Pass holders receive less monthly income and do not meet the minimum qualifying salary, do they have to change the type of work pass they hold?
  6. To an employee that has already signed the letter, if the company faces difficulties again, and further reduces the number of working days from 4 to 3, resulting in employees losing faith in this “home”, then what happens? Employees should have the right to be protected, and I believe that all workers want to know the answers to these questions.