In response to the issue raised by the labour movement that Singaporean firms were giving employees inflated job titles to avoid overtime payments, the Manpower Ministry (MOM) said on Tuesday (Jun 26) that it seriously pays attention on firms’ attempts to mislabel their employees to dodge such obligations.
According to MOM, there were about 50 cases last year involving workers who felt they were unlawfully denied certain accounts as they were wrongly deemed managers or executives. MOM said that about 9 in 10 of these claims were found to be valid. The ministry’s spokesperson added that the application of the existing law has been effective as a remedy for affected workers. The complaints related to this case are consistently low compared to other cases, it added.
Previously, National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) assistant secretary-general Patrick Tay stated in a blog post that inflated titles are the reason why some workers fail to receive compensations for working more than their official working hours. Describing these workers as “disguised PMEs (professionals, managers and executives)”, he estimated that there might be more than 30,000 PMEs here who earn less than S$2,500 monthly.
Under the Employment Act, workmen performing manual labour drawing a basic salary of up to S$4,500, as well as employees earning a basic wage of up to S$2,500 a month, are entitled to payments for extra hours they give in. The provision excludes those holding substantive positions of authority, such as managers and executives, Today Online reports.
Mr Tay suggested that workers should be assessed on their job scopes rather than job titles, and said the MOM’s definition of a manager or executive on its website might need to be tweaked to exclude “professionals with tertiary education and specialised knowledge”. Alternatively, the Employment Act’s provisions covering rest days, hours of work and other conditions of service should be adjusted to cover all workers earning S$2,500 or less, Mr Tay said.
In handling such complaints, the MOM spokesperson said the ministry and Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management (TADM) are guided by the law as interpreted by the courts.
An employee’s job title is not a relevant factor, said MOM spokesperson, given that “each case is assessed individually based on the specific scope of the job, such as the level of authority and decision-making powers in the management of business functions, recruitment, discipline, termination of employment, and staff performance and reward”.
Where relevant, the MOM and TADM would apply the guidance arising from a recent High Court judgement involving a Bangladeshi site supervisor and a China-headquartered firm, said the ministry.
The High Court noted then that the “executive position”” was not defined in the Employment Act. Justice George Wei said a supervisory role does not, in itself, make someone an executive or remove his status as a “workman”.
The judge ruled that the site supervisor was entitled to overtime pay under the Employment Act as his tasks did not go beyond on-site routine administrative work. He also did not have the direct authority to hire, fire, promote or discipline other workers. To allow for proper assessment, the MOM advised employees classified improperly as a manager or executive to approach TADM.