In response to a question by Member of Parliament Hri Kumar (PAP Bishan), the Minister for Manpower, Lim Swee Say, provided an oral answer in Parliament on 11 May 2015:
- The Employment Act (EA) protects both local and foreign workers against salary non-payment. Under the law, employers are required to pay their employees within seven days after the end of the salary period. Failure to do so is an offence and employers are liable upon conviction to a fine or imprisonment or both.
- Besides prosecution, MOM can also take a range of enforcement actions including issuing warning and imposing fines. These employers will also have their privilege to hire foreign workers suspended.
- In the most recent amendments to the Employment Act (2014), we raised the penalties for failure to pay salaries. We introduced mandatory minimum fines of $3,000 for first-time offenders and $6,000 for repeat offenders. We also introduced higher maximum fines for first-time from $5,000 to $15,000 and repeat offenders from $10,000 to $30,000.At the same time, we enhanced MOM’s enforcement and investigatory powers, granting employment inspectors the power to arrest any person believed to be guilty of failing to pay salary, as well as the power to enter workplaces to conduct inspections.
- MOM has stepped up our enforcement efforts since 2014. MOM now investigates every salary-related claim for employees covered under the Employment Act. We take a particularly serious view of employers who wilfully refuse to pay. Last year, MOM took action against 645 employers for salary-related offences. 49 employers were prosecuted for severe breaches. This is four times more than the number in 2013.
- We therefore urge workers who have not been paid their salaries or feel that their wages have been wrongfully withheld to come forward early to MOM or their unions for assistance.
Hri Kumar’s question was: “whether the Ministry will consider stronger sanctions against employers who fail to pay, or wrongfully withhold, wages, whether to local or foreign employees.”