What employment law changes will take effect in 2017?

by HRD07 Dec 2016
The new year is almost upon us and with it comes changes to employment laws in Singapore. 

Here we’ve run down the eight most important ones that companies need to keep in mind:

1)    Mandatory retrenchment notifications (1 January)
Under the Workforce Singapore Agency Act, companies will be required to report the retrenchment of five or more employees within a six-month period.  

Reporting will be done directly to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and a company’s failure to do so is considered an offence and a fine not exceeding $5,000 will be imposed among other possible penalties.

2)    Two weeks paternity leave (1 January)
Fathers of newborns will now be entitled to two weeks paternity leave with the stipulation that they be legally married to the baby’s mother at the time of conception or becomes lawfully married between conception and birth or within 12 months of the child's birth. The child must also be a Singaporean citizen.

Companies can seek reimbursements from the government for the second week of the paternity leave but is capped at $2,500.

3)    Qualifying salary increase for foreign workers (1 January)
MOM has increased the minimum salary necessary for EP applications from $3,300 to $3,600.

The change is applicable to new applicants while existing EP holders are expected to use the new criteria by 1 July 2017. Their passes can be renewed based on the current criteria up to 1 January for a duration of three years and between then to 30 June 2017 for up to a year.

4)    Maternity leave eligibility (1 January)
Under the Child Development Co-Savings Act, mothers – regardless of marital status – are now eligible for 16 weeks maternity leave.

The current maternity leave scheme only allows mothers legally wed to the baby’s father to enjoy 16 weeks of maternity leave. The new amendment puts single mothers on equal footing with their legally married counterparts.

5)    Establishment of Employment Claims Tribunal (1 April)
The new tribunal will cover all employees regardless of salary levels and will include those not covered by the Employment Act, such as professionals, managers, and executives (PMEs).

“As it will be a specialised tribunal, the process should be faster, simpler and come with lower administrative costs than civil law suits,” said Julia Yeo, employment law specialist at Clyde & Co, to HRD.

6)    Shared parental leave (1 July)
Also under the Child Development Co-Savings Act, mothers will now have the option of sharing up to four weeks of their maternity leave with their husbands. Currently, they only have the option of one week’s shared leave.

7)    Adoption leave ( 1 July)
Female employees with newly-adopted children are now entitled to 12 weeks adoption leave, up from four, while employers can no longer claim reimbursements for the first four weeks leave for the first two children adopted.

8)    Raised re-employment age of older workers (1 July)
Parliament this year passed a law raising the age ceiling of re-employment of older workers to 67 (up from 65) and the law will take effect 1 July 2017.

From then on, employers will be legally obligated to offer re-employment to eligible workers up to the age of 67. They can also be re-employed with a different company if they agree to it while wage cuts when employees turn 60 will be removed.

Related stories:

No clear evidence irresponsible layoffs on the rise: MOM 

Is the ‘maternal wall’ keeping women from the C-suite?

MOM speaks out about Employment Claims Tribunal

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