Unlike the UK’s Equality Act 2010 or Australia’s Workplace Relations Act 1996, Singapore has no specific local legislation dealing with the issue of equal work and equal pay, they said.
However, there have been some recent developments in this area, they added.
“In 2002, Singapore ratified the International Labour Organization’s Convention C100 (Equal Remuneration Convention) which calls for ‘equal remuneration between men and women workers for work of equal value’.”
Similarly, the Tripartite Alliance for Fair & Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP) has advocated for the principle of “equal pay for equal work,” they said.
“It must be noted that these are neither legislation nor binding authorities when it comes to the courts. The court may view them as persuasive but is free to adjudicate contrary to its contents.”
They pointed to the case of Latham Scott vs Credit Suisse First Boston. Here, the Court of Appeal stated that the right to grant a bonus was entirely at the discretion of the employer and that an employee had no right to claim a discretionary bonus from their employer.
Regarding non-monetary benefits such as flexi-leave, holiday pay and health insurance, the Employment Act (Cap 91) provided certain minimum rights for employees, said James-Civetta and Amarjit.
“Employers acting in contrary to the Act may be liable to committing an offence under the Act. It must be noted that the EA covers all employees and workmen under a contract of service save for any exceptions that are expressly stated in the Act itself.”
If an employee qualifies under the Act, employers may then be obliged to grant a certain minimum standard to the matters detailed in that part, they said.
“For example, the Act prescribes under section 43 under Part IV that employees serving certain lengths of employment shall be entitled to a proportionate number of annual leave days.
“Another example would be section 88 under Part X of the EA, where it provides how work done during public holidays must be compensated.”
However, as long as employers grant all employees the minimum standard provided for in the EA, any disparity between employees shall be at the employer’s discretion, they added.
For instance in Section 89 of the Act, an employee working for more than six months with an employer is entitled to 14 days of outpatient sick leave per year.
“If the employer decides to grant Employee A 21 days of paid outpatient sick leave and Employee B 28 days of outpatient sick leave even though they perform equal work, Employee A would not have recourse to claim the same entitlements given to Employee B as both entitlements are above the statutory requirements,” James-Civetta and Amarjit said.
Finally when foreign workers are involved, they advised employers to consult the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act (Cap 91A) as well as the Employment of Foreign Manpower (Work Passes) regulations 2012 in addition to the EA.
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When it comes to financial remuneration and other benefits, employers have full discretion to determine the final package, said Managing Partner Gloria James-Civetta and Partner Amarjit Singh Sidhu at Gloria James-Civetta & Co.