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The Employment Claims Act 2016 (Act 21 of 2016) (the "Employment Claims Act") sets up the new Employment Claims Tribunals ("ECT"), which provide employees and employers with an expeditious and affordable avenue to resolve statutory and contractual salary-related disputes. The Employment Claims Act also aims to facilitate the resolution of salary-related employment disputes for more employees, including Professionals, Managers and Executives (PMEs), who earn more than S$4,500 per month and are currently beyond the coverage of the Employment Act, through the ECT.
The ECT came into operation on 1 April 2017.
1. What types of claims can the ECT hear?
The ECT will hear all statutory salary-related claims from employees covered under the Employment Act, Retirement and Re-employment Act, and Child Development Co-Savings Act. The types of statutory salary-related claims include unpaid salary, overtime pay, salary in lieu of notice, employment assistance payments, and maternity benefits.
The new ECT will also hear contractual salary-related claims from employees, including Professionals, Managers and Executives (PMEs) who earn more than S$4,500 per month. Such claims include payment of allowances, bonuses, commissions, salary in lieu of notice and retrenchment benefits, provided that these are expressed in monetary terms in the contract.
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2. What are statutory salary-related disputes and what are contractual salary-related disputes?
Statutory salary-related disputes are disputes over employee entitlements under the Employment Act (EA), Retirement and Re-employment Act (RRA) and Child Development Co-Savings Act (CDCA), such as unpaid salary, overtime pay, salary in lieu of notice, employment assistance payment and maternity benefits etc.
Contractual salary-related disputes are disputes over employee entitlements under the employee's contract of service, including payment of allowances, bonuses, commissions, salary in lieu of notice and retrenchment benefits, as long as these are provided in monetary terms in the contract.
Note that public servants, domestic workers and seafarers may not bring contractual salary-related claims to the ECT. However, they can still bring limited statutory salary-related claims for employment assistant payments and maternity benefits to the ECT.
3. Why are public servants, domestic workers and seafarers not covered under the Employment Claims Act for contractual salary-related claims?
This is because there are other avenues for these employees to resolve their employment disputes. Public servants continue to have recourse through the Public Service's internal processes. Domestic workers can approach their employment agencies and MOM to resolve employment disputes. Likewise for seafarers, they can continue to settle disputes, including salary-related disputes, under the Merchant Shipping (Maritime Labour Convention) Act.
However, public servants, domestic workers and seafarers may bring certain statutory salary-related claims to TADM and the ECT, such as claims for employment assistance payments and maternity benefits.
4. Are interns covered under the Employment Claims Act?
Interns who are engaged under a contract of service, i.e. the intern agrees to serve the employer as an employee, will be covered under the Employment Claims Act and may bring their claims before the ECT.
5. Besides claims relating to salary in lieu of notice of termination (i.e. notice pay), can employers bring other types of claims to the ECT?
No, employers can only bring contractual and statutory claims relating to salary in lieu of notice of termination to the ECT.
6. If my employer fails to pay Central Provident Fund (CPF) contributions to me, can I file a claim at the ECT to recover the CPF contributions?Non-payment of CPF contributions is not a salary claim, but an offence under the CPF Act. Employees may inform the CPF Board of such issues for appropriate action to be taken.
Information on CPF contributions can be found on the CPF website at www.cpf.gov.sg.
Click on the "Employers" tab on the top bar, and select "Employer Guide". You can also email the CPF Board at email@example.com if you require any help.
7. I am unsure if the alleged amount payable to me is covered under the Employment Claims Act. What should I do?
You may wish to seek advice from Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management ("TADM") before submitting your mediation request to them.
8. What will happen to the Labour Court?
The ECT will take over the Labour Court's function on resolving salary disputes, but the Labour Court will continue to hear claims relating to the transfer of employment under section 18A of the Employment Act, claims for workmen's compensation, claims for non-salary related disputes and claims related to the recovery of salary not paid in legal tender, among other things.
9. How is the ECT different from the Small Claims Tribunals (SCT)?
The SCT mainly hears disputes between consumers and suppliers, and does not cover salary-related cases. However, the SCT may hear cases involving independent contractors bound by contracts for services (e.g. self-employed persons, freelancers), which are excluded from the ECT.
10. Where can I obtain legal advice for my claim?
As the State Courts must remain neutral and independent in adjudicating matters that are filed in the Courts, the State Courts staff are not in the position to provide advice for any matter that is or may come within our court system. If you require legal advice, you may find this list of organisations and their websites useful:
Migrant Workers' Centre (MWC)
Head Office: 60 Paya Lebar Road, #13-45, Paya Lebar Square (Lobby 2), Singapore 409051
Telephone: (+65) 6290 7633
Address: 1 Havelock Square, Level 1 State Courts building, Singapore 059724
Telephone: (+65) 6557 4100
The Law Society of Singapore's Pro Bono Services Office
Address: 50 Market Street, #10-04, Golden Shoe Car Park, Singapore 048940
Telephone: (+65) 6536 0650
(Office in State Courts is only for Criminal Legal Aid Scheme matters)
Address: 1 Supreme Court Lane, Level 5M, Singapore 178879
Telephone: (+65) 6332 4388
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