Singapore employment law appears complex and confusing when looking from an outside view although in some ways there are many similarities to other countries. Both Singapore nationals and foreign workers are subject to Singapore employment law, but there are differences in certain benefits required for each. For these and many other reasons the following are only guidelines in the broadest sense, and professional legal services are recommended when employing in Singapore.
Key Factors to Consider When Employing in Singapore:
There are several key areas to be aware of within Singapore’s employment regulatory framework, especially for companies that plan to initiate a full local office and human resources department. These challenges can be mitigated by use of a locally sourced payroll provider who is familiar with all of the Singapore laws and rules for both Singapore employees as well as foreign nationals.
In Singapore, it is reportedly known for foreign talent being very welcome and immigration laws as the least restrictive in the world. This section applies to all employees who are covered under the Employment Act. The official site for employment law in Singapore is the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).
Statutory Working Hours
44 hours per week
Specific Regulations about Overtime
Overtime is paid to workmen who earn less than SGD2,500 per month and non-workmen who earn less than $4,500 per month.
Over time pay is calculated 1.5 times the basic hourly rate of pay.
The basic hourly rate of pay is calculated as follows for different categories of employees.
- Monthly-Rated Employee: (12 x basic monthly rate of pay) / (52 x 44)
- Daily-Rated Employee: (basic daily rate of pay) / (working hours per day)
- Piece-Rated Employee: (total weekly pay at the basic weekly rate of pay) / (total hours worked per week)
Paid Public Holidays
The paid public holidays in Singapore for 2019 are as follows:
- New Year’s Day (1 January)
- Chinese New Year (5 February & 6 February)
- Good Friday (19 April)
- Labour Day (1 May)
- Vesak Day (19 May)
- Hari Raya Puasa (5 June)
- National Day (9 August)
- Hari Raya Haji (11 August)
- Deepavali (27 October)
- Christmas Day (25 December)
Public Holiday Pay Rate
The public holiday pay rate is equal to the employee’s gross rate of pay.
The employee is entitled to public holiday pay if they are:
- Not absent on the working day immediately before or after a holiday without consent or a reasonable excuse
- On authorised leave e.g. sick leave, annual leave, unpaid leave etc. on the day immediately before or after a holiday
- Not on approved unpaid leave on the day of the holiday
If the public holiday falls on a non-working day, the employee is entitled to another day off or an extra day’s salary in lieu of the public holiday at the gross rate of pay.
If the employee works on a public holiday, they are entitled to the following pay:
- Working Day
- Extra day’s salary at the basic rate of pay
- Gross rate of salary for that holiday
- Overtime pay for work beyond normal working hours
- Non-Working Day (e.g. Saturday)
- Extra day’s salary at the gross rate of pay or another day off
- Overtime pay for hours worked
- Rest Day*
- Payment for work done
- Next working day is a paid holiday
- Overtime pay for work beyond normal hours
(*In Singapore, the employer must provide the employee with 1 rest day per week which comprises 1 whole day (midnight to midnight)).
Working on Sundays
Employees are allowed to work on Sundays, unless it is the designated ‘rest day’ which is mandatory for employers to provide. An employer cannot compel an employee to work on a rest day.
Disclosure and Confidentiality of Personal Information
Employees’ personal data is protected to some extent under the Personal Data Protection Act 2012 (PDPA) which regulates the collection, use, and disclosure of personal data. Organisations are required to comply with the standards set out in the PDPA including:
- Collecting, using and disclosing personal data only with the individual’s knowledge and consent
- Collecting, using and disclosing personal data in an appropriate manner for the circumstances
- Collecting, using and disclosing personal data for purposes that would be considered appropriate to a reasonable person in the given circumstances
Employee Protection and Anti-discrimination Rights
The Singapore Employment Act protects employees against wrongful dismissal. The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) lists dismissal on discriminatory grounds as an example of a wrongful dismissal.
Singapore does not have any anti-discrimination legislation apart from Article 12 of the Constitution which provides for the equal treatment of all Singaporean citizens.
An employee’s paid sick leave entitlement depends on their length of service.
Length of Service
Paid Outpatient Non-Hospitalisation Leave
Paid Hospitalisation Leave
- 3 months: 5 days Paid Outpatient Non-Hospitalisation Leave, 15 days Paid Hospitalisation Leave
- 4 months: 8 days Paid Outpatient Non-Hospitalisation Leave, 30 days Paid Hospitalisation Leave
- 5 months: 11 days Paid Outpatient Non-Hospitalisation Leave, 45 days Paid Hospitalisation Leave
- 6+ months: 14 days Paid Outpatient Non-Hospitalisation Leave, 60 days Paid Hospitalisation Leave
Annual Leave Accrual Entitlement
For employees with a salary of less than SGD4,500 per month, their annual leave entitlement depends on their length of service.
- 1st Year of Service: 7 days
- 2nd Year of Service: 8 days
- 3rd Year of Service: 9 days
- 4th Year of Service: 10 days
- 5th Year of Service: 11 days
- 6th Year of Service: 12 days
- 7th Year of Service: 13 days
- 8th+ Year of Service: 14 days
For employees with a salary of SGD4,500 or more, are entitled to whatever annual leave is stated in their employment contract.
Annual Leave Expiry
Any annual entitlement should be used within 12 months or carried forward to the next year. The employee forfeits any leave which is not consumed within 12 months after the end of the relevant year of continuous service.
Annual Leave Accrual Cash Out
Accrued annual leave is cashed out upon termination of the employment.
Accrued Leave at Termination
Accrued annual leave is paid out upon termination of the employment. The amount to be paid out is determined using the following formula:
Annual Leave Payout = Accrued Annual Leave Days x (Annual Salary / 260)
Maternity Leave in Singapore
Female employees are entitled to 12 weeks of paid maternity leave.
Working fathers are entitled to 2 weeks of paid paternity leave if they meet the following requirements:
- Their child is a Singaporean citizen
- They are or have been legally married to the child’s mother between conception and birth
- They have served their employer for a continuous period of 3 months before the birth of their child
- They have provided their employer with the child’s birth certificate and dates of the paternity leave
Severance / Redundancy Pay
According to the Tripartite Guidelines on Managing Excess Manpower and Responsible Retrenchment (Retrenchment Guidelines), it is standard practice for employers to pay a retrenchment benefit that varies between 2 weeks’ and one month’s salary per year of service.
The availability and amount of severance paid for terminating an employment contract depends on the terms of the employment contract and is not governed by the Singapore Employment Act. Disputes are heard at the civil court.
Termination of Employment
The party who intends to terminate the contract must give notice to the other party in writing, or payment in lieu of notice.
The notice period normally is based on what is agreed in the employment contract. If no period was agreed upon, the following periods apply.
- Less than 26 weeks: 1 day
- 26 weeks to less than 2 years: 1 week
- 2 years to less than 5 years: 2 weeks
- 5 years and above: 4 weeks
Notice can be waived by mutual consent. An employer may also terminate an employment relationship without notice if the employee breaches the employment contract, performs gross misconduct or is absent from work continuously for more than two working days, without approval or good reason.
Payment in Lieu of Notice
A payment may be made in lieu of notice.
No limits on probation periods appear to be specified in Singaporean law. However, typical periods are around 3-6 months. Regular employee entitlements such as annual leave legally begin to apply after three months of service (whether still on probation or not).