The Employment Act (the ‘Act’) tells you about your rights and obligations
as an employee
You are an employee under the Act, if you are:
employed under a contract of service
any officer or employee of the Government included by the President as an employee
a ‘workman’, ie
if you engage a skilled or unskilled manual labour, including an artisan or apprentice
if you operate or maintain transport vehicles for hire or commercial use
if you engage in partly manual labour and partly in the supervision of a workman
a bus conductor
a lorry attendant
a bus, lorry and van driver
a bus inspector
a goldsmith and silversmith employed in the premises of an employer
a tailor and dressmaker employed in the premises of an employer
a harbour-craft crew
a workman employed on piece rates in the premises of the employer
not a domestic servant, seaman, manager, executive or secretary.
Not all provisions in the Act apply to employees. If you are an employee earning
more than $1,600.00 per month(excluding overtime, bonus, AWS and other allowances),
the following provisions in the Act will not apply to you:
priority of salary claims over other debts;
Commissioner's power to inquire into amount due to employee; and
rest days, hours of work, holidays and other conditions of service.
note that for this part, subcontractors for labour are considered employees
In such situations, you must refer to your contract of service. Since the provisions
in the Employment Act set the minimum standard, the terms of your contract of service
must be at least equal to or more favourable than the provisions in the Act, otherwise
the terms that are less favourable will be illegal and invalid.
Your Rights as an Employee
Some of your rights under the Act are issues concerning your ‘salary’
and ‘conditions of work’.
Your salary must be paid at least once a month (not necessarily on the first day
of a calendar month) and within the first 7 days of each salary month. For example,
if you are to be paid on the 15th day of each calendar month, you must be paid no
later than the 22nd day of the month.
You cannot be forced to sign a contract of service. When you have completed your
contract of service, you must be paid all your salary and your employer must allow
you to leave your job.
If your employer ends your contract of service, you should be paid within 3 days
of the end of your employment. If you end your employment, you should be paid within
7 days of the end of your employment. If you give due notice, your salary must be
paid to you on the day that your employment ends.
Your employer can make deductions from your salary for a number of reasons, for
absence from work without good reason;
repayment of a loan;
the costs of goods entrusted to you which are lost or damaged because of your negligence
or loss of money that you, as an employee, are responsible for; and
if you agree, for housing accommodation and meals.
There are limits to the deductions which can be made and the total amount of such
deductions cannot be more than half your monthly salary. However, more than half
may be deducted from your last salary before the end of your employment.
In addition to your salary, you may also get extra allowances, for example, for
food or accommodation, but not for alcohol or drugs. If your employer provides you
with housing accommodation, there must be a proper supply of water, proper sanitary
arrangements and first aid equipment available.
Your employer cannot tell you how you should spend your salary, for example, if
he sets up a canteen at your place of work, he cannot force you to buy your meals
All salary must be paid in legal tender and be paid into your personal or joint
account or by cheque to you.
If your employer does not comply with the above, he is guilty of an offence and
can be fined up to $1,000 or jailed for 6 months.
Conditions of Work
There are 7 issues which will be applicable only to you if your monthly income is
less than $1,600 per month, or if you are a workman.
a) Working Hours
Generally, you are not required to work more than 8 hours a day (or 44 hours a week).
There are, however, exceptions to this general rule.
work for 9 hours in one day (but still not exceeding 44 hours a week), if you agree
to work less than 8 hours a day on one or more days, or work 5 (or less) days a
Work for 48 hours a week (or 88 hours over 2 weeks), if you agree to work less than
44 hours every alternative week.
Work unlimited hours and on rest days, if there is an accident, or if the work is
essential to the life of the community, defence or security, or if there is urgent
work to be done to machinery or plant or an unforeseen interruption of work.
You are required to work for a maximum of 12 hours in a day. However, you may be
asked to work longer under the circumstances mentioned in (c) above.
If you work more than the hours above, you are working overtime.
You cannot do overtime work for more than 72 hours a month. If you work overtime,
you should be paid 1.5 times your ‘hourly-rate of pay’.
The formula for calculating overtime of pay is:
Hourly-rate of pay X 1.5 number of overtime hours
The formula for calculating hourly-rate of pay is:
For employees paid monthly: (monthly salary X 12) ÷ (52 X 44 hours)
c) Rest Time
You are entitled to have at least 1 rest day a week which need not be a Sunday.
You are allowed to have a rest period after working continuously for 6 hours. However,
if the nature of your work is such that it must be done continuously, then you must
have a 45-minute off meal break within 8 hours.
Any continuous period of 30 hours is considered a rest day.
d) Working on a Rest Day: Salary Entitlement
You cannot be forced to work on a rest day unless the type of work you do is such
that it needs to carried on continuously in shifts
Hours of Work
At your Request
At Your Employer’s Request
½ day or less
½ your basic rate of pay for one day’s work
Your basic rate of pay for one day’s work
More than ½ day,less than normal daily working hours
Your basic rate of pay for one day’s work
Twice your basic rate of pay for one day’s work
More than normal daily working hours
Your basic daily rate for 1 day plus 1.5 times your hourly rate of pay for each
extra hour or part thereof (see “Overtime” for calculation of hourly
rate of hourly rate of pay)
2 days of pay at basic daily rate, plus 1.5 times your hourly basic rate for the
extra hour or part thereof.
e) Shift Workers
As a shift worker, your hours or work may differ from those of other workers. Section
38 of the Act sets out the standard working hours for non-shift workers (discussed
in ‘Working hours’ and ‘Overtime’). Section 40 sets out
the working hours’ requirement for shift workers.
Under the section:
You can be required to work more than 6 consecutive hours without a break, or more
than 8 hours (but not more than 12 hours) a day, or more than 44 hours a week (but
not more than an average of 44 hours per week over a period of 3 weeks.
You can claim overtime, if you work more than an average of 44 hours per week over
a period of 3 weeks.
You must consent in writing to working on shift. Section 38 and 40 of the Act must
be explained to you, otherwise your consent will not be valid. Your consent will
only be valid if you have been informed of when working hours start and end, then
number of working days per week and when the rest day falls.
f) Holidays and Annual Leave
You are entitled to have an off-day on all official public holidays (but you may
agree with your employer to change the off-day to another day). If the public holiday
falls on the rest-day, you are entitled to have the following day off.
Your annual leave entitlement depends on how long you have worked for your employer.
You are entitled to 7 days annual leave if you have worked for 12 continuous months
with the same employer.
Thereafter, you will get 1 extra day for every addition year of work up to a maximum
of 14 days.
After working for 3 months, you are entitled to pro-rate your annual leave. In calculating
the pro-rated leave, any fraction which is less than half a day shall not be counted,
and if it is more than half, it shall be counted as 1 day.
Your employer can forfeit your annual leave if you absent yourself from work for
more than 20% of the number of working days in the month or year.
g) Sick Leave
After 6 months of work, you are entitled to 14 days of non-hospitalisation sick
leave and 60 days of hospitalisation leave. If you are hospitalised for less than
46 days in any 1 year, your entitlement to paid sick leave shall not be more than
a total of 14 days and the number of days you are hospitalised.
All sick leave must be certified by a medical officer or a doctor and you must inform
your employer within 48 hours that you are on sick leave otherwise you will be deemed
to be absent from work.
h) Retrenchment and Retirement Benefits
Your employer can retrench you if you are no longer needed or if there is a reorganisation
of your employer's business. Your employer need not give any reasons and he cannot
be stopped from employing new workers after a retrenchment exercise.
If your employment agreement promises to pay some money on retirements but not upon
ending of your employment by reason of the employer ceasing to carry on business
from whatever reason, or, by reason of the employer transferring the whole or part
of his undertaking or property as the case may be (‘event’), the law
will entitle you to the same amount of money upon that event happening. (Section
If you have worked for less than 3 years with your employer, the Act says that you
are not entitled to any retrenchment benefits at all. However, the Court of Appeal
(the highest court in Singapore) has decided that the Act does not suggest that
if you have worked for 3 years and more, your employer must pay you retrenchment
Retrenchment benefits are therefore payable only if your contract of service (or
a collective agreement if you a union member) says so or if your employer decides
to pay you ex-gratia (gratuitous) retrenchment benefits.
The Act says that if you have worked for less than 5 years with your employer, you
are not entitled to any retirement benefits. The Act, however, does not say that
if you have worked for at least 5 years with your employer, you are automatically
entitled to retirement benefits. The amount of retirement benefits is not stated
in the Act and must be negotiated between yourself (or your trade union) and your
CPF savings are now generally considered to be retirement benefits.
Retrenchment -- What Are Your Rights?
Termination of Contract of Service
The period of notice for either you or your employer to terminate your contract
of service should be stated in your contract. It should not be less than the following
guidelines in the Act:
Period of Employment
Period of Notice
less than 26 weeks
not less than 1 day
26 weeks but less than 2 years
not less than 1 week
2 years but less than 5 years
not less than 2 weeks
5 years or more
not less than 4 weeks
Notice can be given at any time, but it must be dated and given in writing.
Either you or your employer can choose to waive your right to notice. Either party
can also choose not to wait for the notice period to expire. In this case, the party
who does not wish to wait for the expiry of the notice period must pay the other
salary in lieu of notice.
Notice of termination need not be given if there has been a breach of the terms
and conditions of the contract of service. For example, if your employer fails to
pay your salary, or if you feed that you have been asked to do something which will
involve danger, violence or disease which is not stated in the contract of service,
you may leave your employment without giving notice. (It is advisable to seek advice
from your lawyer or the Ministry of Manpower before doing this). On your part, your
employer need not give you notice if you absent yourself from work for more than
2 days without prior leave or without reasonable excuse or attempting to inform
The employer can, instead of dismissing you, do the following:
If you think that your employer has acted wrongfully, you can complain to the Ministry
of Manpower within 1 month of the dismissal.
Female employees are entitled to maternity leave 4 weeks before and 4 weeks after
delivery of their child.
Alternatively, you and your employer may agree to a period of 12 weeks commencing
not earlier than 28 days before the day of your confinement and at the latest, the
day of delivery.
You and your employer can also agree to a period of 8 weeks starting, at the earliest,
28 days before the day of confinement and at the latest, by the day of confinement
itself. Under this arrangement, you and your employer can agree to one or more further
periods, in total amounting to a maximum of 24 days. These periods must be within
6 months after the date of confinement.
To be entitled to full pay during maternity leave, you must have worked for at least
180 days before delivery of the child.
You are only entitled to full pay during maternity leave for your first two children.
If you worked on any day during your benefit period before confinement, you are
entitled to receive your gross rate of pay for that day, plus an amount equal to
a day’s pay at the gross rate, or, alternatively, you are entitled to a day’s
leave after your benefit period ends.
Note: a benefit period is the period where you are on maternity leave, but you are
entitled to paid at your gross rate of pay.
You must inform your employer at least 1 week before you commence your maternity
leave and also inform your employer of the date of delivery of your child as soon
as possible. If you do not give the notice, you will only be entitled to half pay
unless you have good reason for not giving the notice.
Maternity leave is your entitlement and it is illegal for your employer to ask you
to give up your maternity leave.
During maternity leave, you are entitled to be paid your full salary as usual, but
you are not allowed to claim for sick leave. Your employer is not entitled to terminate
your service and neither are you allowed to give notice of termination using your
maternity leave as the notice period.
If your employer gives you notice of dismissal for no good reason within a period
of 3 months before your confinement, you are still entitled to your usual payment.
If you feel that you have been dismissed without good reason, you should refer the
matter to the Minister of Manpower within 2 months of your confinement date.
However, if you work in another job when you are supposed to be on maternity leave,
you can be dismissed.
If your employer knowingly employs you at any time, in a period of 4 weeks after
your confinement, he is guilty of an offence.
If your employer has agreed with you, before 28 August 1988, to pay you an Annual
Wage Supplement (‘AWS’) of more than one month, that AWS shall continue
to be payable until otherwise agreed.
With effect from 26 August 1988, your contract of service cannot provide for AWS
of more than one month in one year.
Depending on your employer's profits, your performance and contribution, you may
get an additional ‘variable payment’. This is usually recommended by
the Minister through the National Wage Council or through negotiations with your
Making a Complaint
If you have any disagreement with your employer about your salary, the terms of
your contract or your rights under the Act, you can make a complaint to the Ministry
The fee for making a complaint is $3.00.
You must do so within 1 year of the incident that you are complaining about. If
your complaint is about the termination of your contract, you must complain within
6 months of the termination.
If you think your employer will leave Singapore to avoid paying your salary, you
can apply to the Commissioner to ask that your employer give a guarantee to remain
in Singapore until the salary is paid.
The Commissioner will inform the party whom you are complaining against and summon
him and any other interested party to attend an inquiry into the complaint. The
Commissioner may hold a preliminary inquiry and parties are given a change to settle
the matter at the preliminary inquiry. If a settlement is reached, the Commissioner
shall make an order to record the terms of the settlement and the order shall be
as effective as an order made after an inquiry.
At the inquiry, the Commissioner will hear evidence from all sides to the dispute
and then make the necessary order. The order can be to dismiss the claim or to order
a party to pay a sum of money to satisfy the claim. The Commissioner can make an
order in the absence of one party if that party fails to attend the inquiry.
Any party not satisfied with the Commissioner's order can appeal to the High Court
within 14 days of the decision.
Employment of Children and Young Persons
Children below the age of 14 years are not allowed to work in an industrial undertaking
unless it is family business where only family members are employed.
An industrial undertaking includes mines, quarries, factories, shipyards, businesses
and companies carrying out construction work, transport (including bus, ship, car,
Children of 12 years and above may be employed in a non-industrial undertaking to
do light work suited to their capacity. A certificate by a medical officer shall
be conclusive of whether any work is suited to that particular child.
No young person (ie between 14 and 16 years) shall be employed in any industrial
undertaking declared by the Minister to be one which cannot employ young persons.
Any employer who breaches any of the above commits an offence and can be jailed
for up to 6 months and/or fined up to $1,000 for the first offence an up to two
years and/or $2,000 for a subsequent offence.
Work approved and supervised by the Ministry of Education or the Institute of Technical
Education, Singapore (‘ITE’) carried on any technical, vocational or
industrial training school or institute and employment under any apprenticeship
programme approved and supervised by the ITE are not subject to the above provisions.
If you, as an employee:
You can claim only one of the above.
Common Law Claim
You must show that your employer has failed to provide a safe system of work, or
breached a duty required by law or that your employer’s negligence caused
the injury. This may involve commencing legal proceedings, which may take up more
time and expenses.
Damages under common law are however usually more than an award under Workmen’s
Compensation. Common law damages include compensation for pain and suffering, loss
of wages, medical expenses and any future loss of earnings.
Workmen's Compensation Claim
All you have to show is that the injury arose out of an in the course of employment.
No negligence or breach of statutory duty on the part of your employer need be shown.
The procedure is relatively simple and cheap.
Awards are however limited. Awards are based on the age of the injury suffered by
Under the Work Injury Compensation Act, you may claim work injury compensation
if you, as an employee:
If you meet with an accident while travelling in transportation operated by or for
your employer, or in pursuance of arrangements made by your employer, this is considered
to be in the course of employment and is potentially liable for compensation.
If you are hurt while within work premises, or while doing something to avert an
emergency or to rescue or protect life or property, this is considered to be within
the course of employment.
You cannot claim if your injury is due to you being under the influence of drugs
or alcohol, or if the injury is self-inflicted or self-aggravated.
There is a scheduled list of diseases which if contracted by you as an employee,
in your occupation, will entitle you to claim compensation. The diseases include
deafness, asbestosis, industrial dermatitis.
You should consult the Ministry of Manpower or a lawyer for further information.