Written by Team Farallon
Singapore’s employment termination laws are primarily governed by the Employment Act (EA) along with individual employment contracts. The EA sets out the legal framework for the termination of employment, applying to all employees except domestic workers, seafarers, and specific categories excluded by the Minister through a Gazette.
Under Singapore law, the terms of an employment contract should not be less favourable than the rights provided under the EA. This includes regulations related to termination, ensuring a fair process for both employer and employee. The EA’s provisions for termination are detailed in sections 9 to 11, highlighting three primary ways in which employment can be terminated:
Summary dismissal is particularly sensitive, with legal provisions ensuring it is used fairly and appropriately. The EA outlines that misconduct, including acts like theft, dishonesty, and disorderly behaviour, can justify summary dismissal. However, employers must adhere to high standards of proof and procedural fairness, as stipulated by the courts and the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).
This legal framework provides a structured approach to employment termination, balancing the rights and obligations of employers and employees, and aims to protect employees from unfair dismissal while allowing employers to terminate employment for legitimate reasons.
The Employment Act (EA) in Singapore serves as the cornerstone of employment law, providing a comprehensive framework that governs the terms and conditions of employment. This includes specific provisions relating to the termination of employment. The key aspects of these provisions are:
These provisions ensure that terminations, when they occur, are handled in a manner that is fair and justifiable, providing a balanced approach that respects the rights of both employers and employees.
Determining the validity of a dismissal under Singaporean law involves assessing several key factors:
If these criteria are met, the dismissal is likely to be considered valid under Singapore employment law. Failure to meet these criteria could render the dismissal wrongful or unfair, leading to potential legal ramifications for the employer.
Wrongful or unfair dismissal in Singapore is defined by several key criteria:
Dismissal based on age, gender, race, religion, or other discriminatory factors is deemed wrongful. This includes cases where an employee is dismissed due to pregnancy, family responsibilities, or inability to converse in a preferred language that is not a job requirement.
Terminating an employee to deny them contractual or statutory benefits, such as medical entitlements or maternity leave, constitutes wrongful dismissal.
Dismissing an employee as a reprisal for exercising their legal rights, like refusing overtime due to family commitments or filing a legitimate workplace complaint, is unfair.
If an employer cites performance issues or misconduct as reasons for dismissal, they must substantiate these claims. Failure to do so can render the dismissal wrongful.
Forcing an employee into resignation, often seen in constructive dismissal cases, is considered wrongful. This situation arises when employees resign under duress, feeling they have no other choice.
The Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices provide additional guidance on what may constitute wrongful dismissal, reinforcing the need for equitable and non-discriminatory employment practices.
Understanding these criteria helps employees recognise when their dismissal may be unjust and informs employers about the legal obligations they must adhere to when considering termination of employment.
In Singapore, employees who have been wrongfully dismissed have several legal remedies available:
Employees can file a complaint with the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) through the Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management (TADM). This is particularly relevant for managers and executives, including foreign employees, who have served their employer for at least six months.
Under Section 14(2) of the Employment Act, employees can lodge a claim for wrongful dismissal if they believe their dismissal lacked just cause or excuse. Successful claims may result in reinstatement of employment or compensation.
Before proceeding to court, the involved parties are encouraged to seek mediation through TADM. If unresolved, the case can be escalated to the Employment Claims Tribunals (ECT).
The ECT assesses claims for loss of income and harm caused to the claimant, with caps applied based on the employee’s gross rate of pay.
In cases where significant damages are claimed, or if the matter is not resolved through TADM or ECT, employees may take legal action in court. Engaging a lawyer is advisable for navigating the legal process and document preparation.
Employees must file their claims within specific time frames – one month from the last day of employment or, for wrongful dismissal during pregnancy, within two months of childbirth.
These legal pathways provide a structured approach for addressing wrongful dismissal, ensuring that employees can seek justice and employers are held accountable for their actions.
Speak to an employment lawyer to learn more about your options.
When faced with a claim of wrongful dismissal, employers in Singapore should take the following steps:
Ensure that the dismissal was conducted in line with the contractual terms and the Employment Act. This includes reviewing if the reasons for dismissal were valid and whether due process was followed.
Compile all relevant documents, such as the employment contract, records of the employee’s performance, documentation of any misconduct, and correspondence related to the dismissal. This will be crucial in demonstrating that the dismissal was justified.
Address the claim through internal grievance procedures first. Many disputes can be resolved internally without escalating to legal proceedings.
If the issue is brought to TADM, actively participate in the mediation process. This can often lead to an amicable resolution and avoid further legal action.
If the matter proceeds to the Employment Claims Tribunal (ECT), prepare to present the case effectively. This includes organising evidence and potentially seeking legal advice.
Ensure adherence to the Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices, focusing on non-discriminatory and fair employment practices.
Use the experience to review and improve HR policies and dismissal procedures, ensuring compliance with employment laws and reducing the likelihood of future claims.
By taking these steps, employers can responsibly manage wrongful dismissal claims, potentially resolving them effectively while minimising legal risks and maintaining their reputation.
In Singapore, both internal and external mechanisms are available for resolving employment disputes, including wrongful dismissal claims. These mechanisms provide structured avenues for both employees and employers to address and resolve their grievances.
The Employment Claims Tribunal (ECT) in Singapore plays a pivotal role in resolving employment disputes, including those related to wrongful dismissal. Here’s an overview of its function and process:
Wrongful dismissal in Singapore is governed by a robust legal framework that aims to balance the rights of employees and employers to ensure fair and lawful practices.
Dealing with a wrongful dismissal involves a combination of legal knowledge, procedural fairness, and a commitment to equitable employment practices, if you are facing a potential wrongful dismissal, a wrongful dismissal, or even dealing with a wrongful dismissal claim from an employee, speak to us to learn more about your options.
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