Transient Workers Count Too notes that the new Regulations (with effect from April 2017) subsidiary to the revised Employment of Foreign Manpower Act (2012), contain two clauses that make employers’ responsibility more explicit. These are among other changes in the new Regulations.
These two clauses are found in Part III of the Fourth Schedule of the new Regulations:
15. Unless requested by the Controller of Immigration or the Controller of Work Passes, the employer shall not repatriate the foreign employee when such repatriation would frustrate or deny any statutory claim that has been filed before 1 April 2017 by the foreign employee for salary arrears under the Employment Act (Cap. 91), any claim lodged or intended to be lodged by the foreign employee for salary arrears under the Employment Claims Act 2016 (Act 21 of 2016), or work injury compensation under the Work Injury Compensation Act (Cap. 354).
16. Except as the Controller specifies otherwise in writing, the employer continues to be responsible for and must bear the costs of the upkeep (including the provision of food and medical treatment) and maintenance of the foreign employee in Singapore who is awaiting resolution and payment of any statutory claim filed before 1 April 2017 for salary arrears under the Employment Act, any tripartite mediation for salary arrears sought under the Industrial Relations Act (Cap. 136), any mediation request submitted or claim lodged for salary arrears under the Employment Claims Act 2016, or any claim for work injury compensation under the Work Injury Compensation Act. The employer must ensure that the foreign employee has acceptable accommodation in Singapore. Such accommodation must be in accordance with the requirements in any written law, directive, guideline, circular or other similar instrument issued by any competent authority. These responsibilities cease upon resolution and payment of the claim for salary arrears or the work injury compensation.
TWC2 welcomes these additional clauses. Our understanding is that infringement of Conditions such as the above will attract penalties per Section 5(7A) of the Act itself:
7A. Any person who contravenes subsection (3) shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $10,000.
TWC2 has in the past regularly encountered instances where employers restrict the movements of employees, sometimes with the aid of strong-armed repatriation agents, in order to prevent them from making their way to the Ministry of Manpower or non-governmental organisations seeking help, often followed by early dispatch to the airport.
Several articles in our website tell of such stories, e.g.
- Seven to seven
- Worker flees captors through jungle at night
- Twice abducted by repatriation agents, Asadullah goes home poorer than when he arrived
- Ganging up
Over time, TWC2 has noticed a reduction in such cases, but nevertheless it is good that explicit regulations now address this problem.
Upkeep should include subsistence allowance
Unfortunately, the term “upkeep” does not include a subsistence allowance. Workers awaiting settlement of claims still need cash to travel to hospital for their appointments, or to MOM itself whenever so required by officials. Workers need to top up their phones otherwise their MOM case officers will not be able to reach them. Some workers awaiting settlement of claims may be receiving medical leave wages and therefore have some cash but many more — those not on medical leave and all those awaiting salary claims — have no money at all.
TWC2 urges that this oversight be rectified as soon as possible. A subsistence allowance of perhaps $10 a day would be reasonable.