MOM reveals rise in unfair dismissal complaints amid crisis

Despite the increase, there’s no evidence of employers disguising layoffs to avoid paying retrenchment benefits

MOM reveals rise in unfair dismissal complaints amid crisis

Singapore saw a rise in employee claims against unfair dismissal in the second quarter of 2020, reported the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).

Dismissal claims lodged in the quarter were higher than in previous ones. MOM stated that this was in line with the drop in employment during this period.

“Despite the increase, there is no evidence that more employers terminated their employees unfairly to deny them of retrenchment benefit,” said MOM.

Claims for retrenchment benefits, however, remained low at 69.

Read more: Unfair and wrongful dismissals in Singapore: A guide

MOM found that many of the dismissal claims were filed by employees who were unhappy over the abrupt manner of the termination, rather than failure to fulfil their contractual obligations.

The Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management (TADM), which handles such cases, mediated to help affected parties voice their challenges and share their perspectives with each other.

TADM found that 277 wrongful dismissal claims between April 1, 2019 and June 30, 2020, to be substantiated. Of these cases, about 60% were resolved at TADM, while the remaining 40% were referred to the Employment Claims Tribunal.

Another 842 claims were found to be unsubstantiated, with 60% of cases resolved at TADM.

Read more: How much notice do I need to give before firing an employee?

Claims over unpaid salary
MOM also reported on salary claims made from 2019 onwards. For salary claims lodged between 1 January 2019 and 30 June 2020, 90% of employees fully recovered their salaries owed, with a total recovered sum of about $23 million.

The most common claims made were for basic salary and salary-in-lieu of notice.

To help avoid future disputes, MOM has developed a new self-help Key Employment Terms (KET) Verification Tool to help employers check and verify that their contractual terms on working hours and salary payments comply with the Employment Act.

Read more: HR system error leads to $10m in underpayments

“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused business difficulties to employers,” said Kandhavel Periyasamy, general manager at TADM.

“In this situation, employers should communicate any financial difficulties to their employees in an upfront and sensitive manner.

“If cost-saving measures are required, management should lead by example. This would help to build stronger employment relationships and prevent workplace disputes.

“However, employers should not act unilaterally and use financial difficulties as an excuse to not pay salaries while expecting employees to continue working.”

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