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Restrictions on working hours protect employees from fatigue

  • Lianhe Zaobao (22 April 2019): There should be flexibility in hours of work

Restrictions on working hours protect employees from fatigue
- Lianhe Zaobao, 5 May 2019

  1. We thank Mr Dai Jin Long for his letter (“There should be flexibility in hours of work”, 22 April).
  2. Restrictions on working hours protect vulnerable employees from fatigue at work. Long working hours without adequate rest reduce employees’ alertness and compromise their mental and physical work performance, leading to workplace safety and health risks. This may result in workplace accidents, which also affect business operations.
  3. While employers may, due to business needs, require employees to work overtime, employees should not work more than 12 hours a day or more than 72 hours of overtime a month. If employees are required to work overtime, they should be paid 1.5 times their hourly basic rate of pay. This applies to non-workmen earning up to $2,600 and workmen earning up to $4,500.
  4. Employers who require their employees to work more than the overtime limits can apply to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) for exemption. 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.
  5. As Mr Dai highlighted in his letter, employers and employees can negotiate the terms of their employment contract, including their salary and working hours. However, the employment terms must be aligned with the requirements of the Employment Act.
  6. We urge all employers to ensure that they accord the necessary statutory rights and benefits to their employees and also take their workers’ well-being into consideration in setting out their employment terms. Members of the public may access more information on our employment laws at

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

Translated letter

There should be flexibility in hours of work
- Lianhe Zaobao, 22 April 2019

  1. MOM recently requested for employers to strictly adhere to the regulation that employees cannot work more than 44 hours a week. Even if employers and employees have agreed on the working hours, they still have to abide by this restriction. This has affected the operations of many businesses.
  2. Employees of the tyre shop next door work 10 hours a day and 8 hours on Saturday. They earn a monthly income of more than $3000. These were the employment terms that were agreed on during the interviews. But now, MOM wants the tyre shop to strictly adhere to the regulation of employees not working more than 44 hours per week, and any additional working hours have to be counted as overtime. The employer can only reduce the employees’ number of working hours, but cannot reduce the employees’ salaries accordingly, which makes him feel helpless.
  3. The owner of a car maintenance workshop reduced his employees’ working hours and their salaries at the same time. If the employees do not accept the new terms, they have no choice but to find another job. It would be difficult for businesses like car maintenance workshops and tyre workshops to survive if business hours are short. Businesses like these are not production lines or office jobs, and if they start late and end early, business will be severely affected.
  4. Some may say that business hours in Western countries are not long either, but don’t forget that their capital structure is different from Singapore’s, and they may even face less regulations. Not working more than 44 hours a week is a good measure to protect workers, but flexibility should also be permitted. For example, if employers and employees have agreed on salaries and working hours, the authorities should not interfere.