In a decision released last week, Justice Lee Seiu Kin said that an in-principal approval letter (IPA) would stand as an official salary offer unless there was another written agreement between the employer and employee.
The ruling came in the case of migrant worker Liu Huaixi, who was given a basic salary of $680, despite his IPA stating he would receive $1,100.
Liu’s employer, Haniffa, claimed the two parties had reached an oral contract during an online interview in which Liu would be paid $1,300 a month - $680 in basic pay, $200 in housing allowance and the rest as overtime pay.
However, Justice Lee said that, since there was no evidence of the contract, the in-principal approval letter would take precedent.
The judge also explained that while an employer does have the ability to reduce a worker's basic monthly salary to a sum lower than that stated in an IPA, they can only do so with written consent of the employee. The employer also has to inform MOM's Controller of Work Passes in writing.
Justice Lee also said the court would take the declaration of the basic monthly salary in the IPA letter as factual, unless there was significant evidence to show otherwise.
"I would go so far as to state that even if there was a written contract of employment which provides for a monthly basic salary of less than the sum stated in the IPA, the burden would lie on the employer to show why the IPA figure does not reflect the true salary," he said.
Ultimately, Haniffa was ordered to pay $6,500 in owed salary and payment in-lieu of notice to Chinese national Liu Huaixi.
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