Ask a lawyer: Can you dismiss an employee whilst they are on maternity leave?

by Lucy Hook28 Jul 2016
Though there may be a number of reasons for needing to dismiss an employee whilst they are on maternity leave, Singapore laws provide relatively strong protection to employees during this time, as well as during their pregnancy in general.

HRD spoke to Pradeep Kumar Singh, Partner, and Michelle Chan, Associate, at Colin Ng & Partners LLP to find out about the legal rules that govern when and under what conditions an employee can be terminated during maternity leave.

“Statutory protections against termination of employment, during pregnancy as well as during maternity leave, are generally available for female employees covered under the Singapore Employment Act or the Child Development Co-Savings Act, who have served their employers for a period of 3 months or more,” Singh and Chan said.

When an employee is pregnant, the statutes dictate that a notice of dismissal must not “deprive [the employee] of any maternity benefit payment to which she would have been entitled to under law if the notice was given (a) without sufficient cause, or (b) on the ground of redundancy or by reason of any reorganization of her employer’s business.”

If the employee is found to have been dismissed without sufficient cause, the Minister holds powers to direct the employer to (i) reinstate her in her former employment and pay her the salary she would have earned had she not been dismissed, or (ii) pay an amount of salary as compensation as the Minister may consider just and equitable in the circumstances of the case, Singh and Chan told HRD.

“While an employee is on maternity leave, the law also prohibits her employer from giving her notice of dismissal during her absence or on a day such that the notice will expire during her absence,” they added.

Ultimately, employers are advised to seek professional advice when considering terminating an employee whilst they are pregnant, to ensure that their actions are in compliance with the range of applicable laws.

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