10 Facts About Singapore Working Hours That Bosses Hope Workers Wouldn’t Know

In case you’re unaware, us Singaporeans are notorious for our working hours.

So, other than having the longest working hours, is there anything else you should know?

Here are 10 facts about Singapore working hours your boss doesn’t want you to know.

Because if you knew them, you won’t work as much.

Prefer to watch it instead? Here, we’ve done a video based on this topic (do subscribe to our YouTube channel for more informative videos!):

No data for videos? Well, read on then.

The Very Basics for Office Workers

Some bosses won’t want their employees to know the very basics of the official working hours in Singapore so that they can easily manipulate them. This is even more common in smaller companies, whereby the boss would brainstorm the employee to think that they should be working more than what is expected simply because “everyone is doing that”.

Or, you know, provide them with a nice office, a nice name card with the word “Director” in their position, and an IG-worthy work environment, all just to compensate for the longer (and crazier) working hours.

There are many things a boss can’t do to you, and if you have a nasty boss, you might want to check out this video we’ve done about the rights of an employee:

Now, moving on to working hours: The most basic rule is that every week, the maximum number of hours an employee should work is 44 hours. Now, how about working hours per day? It depends on whether you’re on a five-day workweek, or a six-day workweek (there’s no seven-day workweek; read on and you’ll understand).

For a five-day workweek, the maximum hour per day is 9 hours, while for six-day workweek, the maximum hours per day is 8 hours. They can be less, but never more.

These hours, however, do not include break hours, so you’ll have to deduct accordingly.

However, if you doing shift work, it’s a different case altogether.

The Very Basics for Shift Worker

If you work shift hours, then it’s slightly different: your maximum hours is still 44 hours per week, but that’s an average of three weeks. So let’s say in a three-week period, these are your hours:

Week 1: 48 hours
Week 2: 44 hours
Week 3: ?? hours

In the third week, your maximum hours would be reduced to 40 hours, as the total hours in three weeks should be less than 132 hours (44 hours X 3).

Bet you didn’t know that, eh?

Also, the maximum hours you can work is 12 hours a day, and six days a week. Read on and you’ll understand.

Working Hours Must be Less than 6 hours Straight

You can’t work more than 6 hours consecutively; for every six hours of work, you’ll be entitled (note: this is an entitlement hor, not a privilege) to a break, which is of course unpaid.

This is actually going on for all office workers: there’s a lunch break in-between the 9 hours of daily work.

But…but, if you die die need to work longer hours at one go, you can do so as long as there’s at least a meal break that lasts for at least 45 minutes.

And also, eight hours is the maximum liao. Seriously, even if your body can take it, your stomach can’t.

OT Hours

This is tricky – so tricky, I’ll say that understanding this is as difficult as understanding your wife’s / girlfriend’s sudden silence. But I’ll try to break it down for you in the simplest manner.

Firstly, you need to know if you’re protected by the Employment Act: if your pay is more than $4,500 a month, then you’re not covered by the act: you’re all alone.

Not only would you not be entitled to OT pay, whatever that is mentioned here doesn’t apply to you (HAHA, did you just read everything and realize it doesn’t concern you, you rich fellow?).

However, in March this year, the authorities are looking to include this group of people into the Employment Act, so cross your fingers (though I won’t care much because it doesn’t affect me).

If your pay is less than $4,500, then here’s a very basic idea:

  • If you’re an office-based worker, you’ll be entitled to OT pay if your pay is less than $2,500
  • If you’re a non-office based worker, you’ll be entitled to OT pay if your pay is less than $4,500 (which is almost everyone, since any amount above $4,500 is not covered in the Employment Act)

This is a very simplified explanation, and most importantly, this might change (after the announcement in March).

But you get the idea: most of you are actually entitled to OT pay. The problem isn’t the system, but your boss (geddit?).

We’ve actually done a video about this, so if you want a more comprehensive explanation and have data to burn, here’s the video:


There must be a one-day break in each week

Remember me saying that there’s no “seven-day workweek”? Cuz technically speaking, there MUST be at least one rest day in a week. For office workers, the default would be on a Sunday. For shift workers, it can be any day, but there die die needs a rest day.

There’s no such thing as “I work seven days a week,” unless you’re just humblebragging. If so, might as well say you work eight days a week lah.

The SOP if a Public Holiday Falls on a Saturday

Now, this is tricky – certain bosses like to play with this as if it’s flexible. To some extent, it is lah, but there are apparently official rules to this first-world ambiguity.

Anyone who has been through NS would know that if a public holiday falls on a Saturday, people would have an off-in-lieu for one full day: and that is how it’s supposed to work.

The rationale is simple: for a five-day workweek, Monday to Friday are considered working days, and Saturday is considered an off day. Sunday is the rest day you’ve read earlier.

So, if you have an off day and it’s a holiday, it’s reasonable that you use your off day on another day (you can choose when to have your off day, right?), since public holiday would entitle you an official day off.

This is why should the public holiday falls on a Sunday, the following Monday would be off, since rest day isn’t exactly one that you choose.

Simply put, the official system is an off-in-lieu (or pay for that day if you work) should a public holiday falls on a Saturday. Some companies would require their employees to use that off-in-lieu within the month.

What if you need to work on a Saturday, usually a half-day?

That means you work six days a week with a rest day on Sunday. In other words, should a public holiday falls on a Saturday, it’s just like it falling on any other day: you get your official off on Saturday. Of course you’ll argue, “But it’s half day leh!”

That’s when you’ll know if your boss’s heart is made of roses or mud: technically speaking, it doesn’t matter since six-day workweek can be of equal hours per day. But most bosses’ hearts are made of roses (I know mine is #scaredhereadingthis), so they’ll just be flexible and provide an additional half-day off.

This would, however, depend entirely on your boss or HR.

Foreign Workers are Also Protected in All these Laws

You might have seen foreign workers working like 24 hours a day building our HDBs, and think that they’re exempted from this. My simple question to you is this: are they not humans as well?

The exact same rules apply to them, simply for one reason: they’re just like you and me.

Though I just have a feeling that certain bosses like to break the rules when it comes to foreign workers #justsaying #butmybossisgood #goodlikeshitactually

Maximum hours

So, is there a maximum number of hours a person can work a day? There is, and it’s 12 hours. Now, you’ll realize that even in this 12-hour block, there must still be the break you’re read about earlier.

The next time your boss ask you to OT until 2:00 a.m., show them this article, though I don’t know what’ll happen next lah.

As for OT hours, whether paid or unpaid, the maximum should only be 72 hours a month. If you think about it, that’s still a lot of hours. I seriously hope you don’t need to look at this number seh.

If need to work for more than 12 hours, how?

If the nature of your work requires you to work for more than 12 hours, or OT more than 72 hours, you’ll need approval from the ministry (think: those 24-hour shift workers). It’s not that you can suka suka just work long hours because you’re dedicated to your work, your boss is nice or that you’re a workaholic.

The system is there to prevent you from burning out, or from evil bosses from abusing their employees.

65% of Singapore workers work more hours than expected

So, having known all the hard facts, do you think Singaporeans are well-protected?

Well, the system is there, but like what we often heard in NS, “The system is good. The people running the system are bad.”

Which is kind of true, because a whopping 65% of workers in Singapore actually worked more than the hours they’re required to.

While we can put all our blame on our boss, the society and even Leon’s dogs, the fact of the matter is this: you have control over your hours, and the system is there to protect you.

What choices do you make?

Featured Image: ProStockStudio / Shutterstock.com