Closely watched high court test case concludes

A high court employment test case has been dismissed and the decision is binding for 12 other plaintiffs

Closely watched high court test case concludes

A closely watched test case concluded in the Singapore High Court last week. The Court has dismissed all claims brought by former SBS Transit (SBST) bus driver, Chua Qwong Meng who sued the public transport operator over rest days and discrepancies in overtime pay.

Meng alleged that he was routinely made to work more than the legal limit of overtime a month and there were several instances when he worked for more than seven consecutive days before having a day off and these instances had breached the Employment Act and his employment contract with the company.

Twelve other employees of SBST filed their own separate lawsuits but last year Justice Audrey Lim transferred Meng’s test case to the high court, stipulating that Meng’s test case would be binding on all plaintiffs. At the time she said the issues raised were important questions of law that would affect a large class of workers.

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SBST denied all allegations, stating all claims about it’s rostering were baseless. In particular, Meng’s claims, which the organisation said were based on handwritten documents of unclear origin that did not correctly reflect his working hours and that there were “serious problems” with his calculations.

Claims and outcomes

Forced to work seven consecutive days before receiving a rest day

Under the Employment Act every employee must be allowed in each week a rest day without pay of one whole day.

Meng claimed that he was entitled to a rest day on the seventh day of each week after working six days. He argued that if this is not the case employers could schedule days off on the first day of the first week and last day of the second forcing the worker to complete 12 consecutive days of work.

SBST argued that their rostering system scheduled two consecutive days off every seven days which was compliant with employment law.

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Lim found that an employer is allowed to schedule a rest day on any day of the week defined as a continuous period of seven days and noted that Meng had never worked twelve consecutive days for the company.

Forced to work on rest days

Meng claimed that he was asked to work on rest days all the time and given disciplinary notices if he refused.

Lim dismissed this as assertions that weren’t supported by evidence and noted that any disciplinary action taken against Meng was for being absent on days he was scheduled to work.

Working more than 72 hours overtime in one month

Meng claimed he worked more than 72 hours overtime in a one-month period and that he had worked more overtime than SBSTs records show.

Lim said Meng’s calculations were inflated by including break times in the hours worked and upon reviewing payslips and timecards was satisfied that Meng had been properly compensated for all hours worked and the bus crew attendance lists showed no evidence of him completing more than 72 hours of overtime.

Insufficient break times

Meng claimed he was given break periods of 25 mins and a toilet break of 10 mins which was less than the required 45-minute break required by law for an eight-hour day.

Lim considered if the allotted break time must be given continuously and if Meng had opportunity to consume a meal, a specification of the employment act. She found that employers can give multiple breaks that add up to 45minutes and SBST gave Meng sufficient time to have meals.

Underpaid for working overtime and public holidays

Meng was contracted to work 48 hours per week. He claimed this meant having to work overtime to earn his basic pay.

SBST argued these were gross hours that included 45 mins of breaks a day.

The court agreed and found the arrangement did not breach the employment act.

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