Volunteer Christine Pelly and social worker Karno distribute information flyers (in Tamil) to a worker near Sembawang MRT station

Volunteer Christine Pelly and social worker Karno distribute information flyers (in Tamil) to a worker near Sembawang MRT station

19 November 2013
Media Statement
For immediate release

Issuing payslips do not add significantly to admin cost; MOM should not accept such an excuse to delay making it mandatory

Transient Workers Count Too is disappointed that the move for mandatory itemised payslips has been ‘deferred’ in the recent round of amendments to the Employment Act. (See this news flash: Compulsory payslips not among amendments to Employment Act). We support the call by Member of Parliament Zainal Sapari (Pasir Ris-Punggol) for ‘a timeframe to make it compulsory to issue payslips’. Alternatively, we call on Minister for Manpower Tan Chuan-Jin to at least institute it as a condition required of employers for work permits as a first step in the ‘pragmatic and phased’ implementation promised by the minister.

Salary short-payment is a common complaint of foreign workers in Singapore. While our survey is still ongoing, initial results indicate that about a quarter to a third of work permit holders might not have been correctly paid in the previous month. Given that there are about 750,000 non-domestic work permit holders in Singapore, this means as many as 250,000 are affected. Problems include improperly calculated overtime, arbitrary lowering of basic pay, unpaid no-work days and opaque deductions.

For employers to say that this raises costs is simply not credible; the minister should not have given weight to such an argument. Employers anyway have to calculate salaries including overtime each month for each employee; it is not as if this exercise does not have to be done at present. Issuing a payslip is simply an act of giving the employee a copy of the calculation.

Moreover, this can be outsourced for as little as a few dollars per employee per month, representing less than 0.5 percent of a typical work permit employee’s total cost, if a company does not wish to keep a payroll clerk on its own payroll.

The only employers who may find their costs increase would be those who are not currently making the effort to calculate salaries at all. In the words of MP Zainal Sapari, refusing to issue payslips is how irresponsible employers ‘cover their tracks’ when they underpay or flout the law.

Surely the State should not be encouraging such behaviour by being indulgent towards spurious claims of cost increase. We would only be hurting ethical and honest businesses by making it hard for them to compete, and allowing unethical business to continue to exploit the most vulnerable of the workers.