The recent amendments to the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act (EFMA) will take effect on 9 November 2012, reported the Straits Times and Channel NewsAsia.

Both reports highlighted the introduction of administrative penalties.

A financial penalty will be imposed on administrative infringements. These are EFMA breaches that do not directly harm workers and are not criminal activities outside of the Ministry of Manpower’s rules. One example is when an employer does not pay his S-Pass holders their salaries by e-payment modes.

This amendment will allow for quicker and more effective punishment of those who bend the rules without the need for criminal prosecution.

Commissioners for Foreign Manpower have been authorised to impose administrative financial penalties of up to $20,000 per infringement. The Commissioners will be able to debar employers from hiring foreign workers.

— Channel NewsAsia, 9 Nov 2012, Amendments to Employment of Foreign Manpower Act take effect on Nov 9. Link.

Another significant change is the new presumption clause, which presumes that a person who makes an application for a work pass has knowledge of the information provided in the application that relates to him. This can unjustly penalise foreign workers who are brought in under S Passes. For this grade, only those workers who have diplomas are eligible, but unscrupulous employers and employment agents have been known to forge such diplomas in an attempt to bring in unskilled workers under the S Pass scheme. This is to circumvent tighter quota rules with respect to Work Permits — the correct category for unskilled workers.

For example, if foreign workers submit forged educational certificates to qualify for work passes, they could be fined up to $20,000 and/or jailed for up to two years per charge. Employers guilty of bending the rule could be charged with abetment.

— ibid.

The resumption clause now makes the victims of such false applications (the workers themselves) criminally liable.

TWC2 had previously highlighted this and other anomalies, in an Our Stand statement when the legislative proposals were tabled in parliament.They were subsequently passed without amendments.

The Straits Times also reported that the Manpower Ministry is now working on

a second phase of the EFMA review which will focus on workers’ well-being and “ensuring a fair balance of rights and responsibilities between employers and workers”.

— Straits Times, 9 Nov 2012, Stiff action against errant bosses of foreign workers

Singapore’s other major labour law, the Employment Act, is also under review, for which public consultation is due to start by the end of the year, repoted the newspaper.