Should gig workers be covered by Employment Act?

A landmark renewal of Singapore’s labour law extends coverage to more PMETs – but how about the giggers?

Should gig workers be covered by Employment Act?

When the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) announced a landmark update of the Singapore’s Employment Act, one question that rung amongst parliament was this: how about the gig workers?

With more people taking on freelancing roles with gig economy organisations like ride-hailing and food-delivery services, more parliament members called for their protection under the Act.

The Act covers basic employer provisions including paid holiday leave, sick leave entitlements as well as protection against wrongful dismissal. Come 1 April 2019, the salary cap of $4,500 for employees covered under the law will be removed, extending protection to an additional 430,000 PMETs.

Several members of parliament (MP) voiced that this is still “not enough” and urged the government to ensure that labour laws keep pace with the rise of the gig economy.

MP Denise Phua said that the latest changes to the law are “silent” on how legislation can ensure that these workers receive a fair employment package. She also questioned whether firms engaging giggers can be “jointly or severally liable” for providing entitlements such as leave benefits or hospitalisation.

“In instances of a medical emergency or a fatal accident, would employees with multiple employers be protected and provided for, or would this duty be pushed among different employers?” she asked.

Gig workers are labelled self-employed in Singapore, which is why they are not eligible for legal protection under the Act.

Nominated MP Walter Theseira urged Manpower Minister Josephine Teo to set clearer directions so that firms are not tempted to classify workers as “self-employed” to evade obligations under the Act.

Teo acknowledged that employers could wrongly classify workers to avoid legal obligations but urged employees unsure of their status to approach MOM.

“Mischievous employers should take note and realise that they can be prosecuted for non-provision of such salary and benefits,” she said.

Gig-worker employers are encouraged to have written contracts and cover key items such as payment schedules, salary amount, as well as dispute resolution. These however are on a voluntary basis and not enforced by any laws.


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