“Foreign workers are generally allowed to perform only jobs stated in their work pass applications. Employers are advised not to ask their foreign workers to run non-work-related errands such as queueing to buy bak kwa,” said a MOM spokesperson.
A recent report by The Straits Times
revealed that many employers were offering their migrant workers $5 per hour and $10 meal allowances to line up to buy bak kwa as the queue for this Chinese New Year meal staple can get very long.
However, migrant workers’ rights groups are critical of the practice and are warning employers against it.
Yeo Guat Kwang
, chairman of the Migrant Workers’ Centre, said employers need to consider two factors when they ask for favours from their foreign staff:
1) Deployment for an activity other than that stated in the work permit is not allowed.
2) If tasks are not officially permitted, what happens to the employee if an unfortunate accident happens while they are buying bak kwa?
“Does it mean that the worker is precluded from employment protections?” he asked.
“Our caution to employers should therefore be to strictly deploy workers only in the jobs stated in their work permits. To do otherwise might, technically, be interpreted to be wrongful deployment," said Yeo.
According to the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act (EFMA), any employer seen as contravening any condition of a work pass is subject to a fine up to $100,000 or imprisonment up to a year, or both.
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The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) advised employers not to ask foreign workers to queue on their behalf to buy bak kwa as this could be seen as a violation of their work permit.