Let me tell you a true story about a friend of mine. Let’s call him Ben for now. Ben has just graduated from University, and he is looking forward to a brand new phase in his life.
He has finally finished his studies and is excited about starting his career, filled with zeal to exceed expectations with a combination of hard work and creativity. But he couldn’t get a job when he came out of university.
Friends studying the same course got their first jobs within a month or two, but sending applications after applications only got him replies from insurance companies or companies offering sales position which was totally unrelated to his course of study.
Finally, 6 months later, he managed to land a job in a pretty big company. He was happy again. It wasn’t the best job, nor was the pay good but it was adequate, it’s a job after all. He was excited when telling his family about the good news, and his girlfriend even treated him to a celebratory meal for his new job.
When he started working, his dreams came crashing down. He felt that he was unfairly treated in the workplace, yet there was no one else he could turn to. He couldn’t talk to his family because they had such high expectations of his first job and he couldn’t confide in his girlfriend simply because he didn’t want to disappoint her.
So there he was, trying to make things work in a hostile environment, feeling his confidence and sense of self-worth plummet and his work-life balance wrecked as his boss heaped work after work on him.
So, fact or fiction? Sad to say, this is a true story; what more, there are many more ‘Bens’ in Singapore than you would have believed. Ben is a typical fresh graduate, someone who came out to work without knowing what to expect. And because of this, he couldn’t achieve his full potential.
There are also things that bosses can’t do to you; here, take a look at this video to check if your boss has been breaking the law or not:
These are 7 things you’ll definitely need to know about your employee rights before you enter the workforce, and if you’re already there and in Ben’s situation, well, it’s better late than never, I’d say.
You can complain about discrimination and harassment
If you think you are being discriminated or harassed at work, complain to TAFEP, your HR, union or NTUC; but before you do that, read what blogger Shine Koh has to say about dealing with harassment. Collecting evidence is an important step many forget and one that determines if your issue is redressed or dismissed.
Are you getting your Employer CPF contribution?
You are only eligible for employer CPF contribution when you work full-time – true or false? The answer is false. You are eligible for CPF payment as long as you earn more than $50 a month no matter whether you are working on a part-time, full-time or casual basis with your company.
And before you ask, isn’t it better not to pay CPF? It means you get higher take-home pay right? That’s technically true; except that your company can also get away with not paying you the amount that you technically worked for – they don’t have to pay the 17% contribution to your CPF either. If you have problems getting back CPF contributions from your employer, you can simply contact CPF for assistance in getting back your rightful amount of money.
Your salary and leave is protected by Employment Act
Singapore unions have been lobbying the government for more general and working hours-related protection for PMEs because the Employment Act before 1 April 2014 neglected these issues.
Now, PMEs earning up to $4,500 are protected by the Employment Act in terms of salary protection and general protection such as unfair dismissal, paid sick days and hospitalisation etc. So no matter whether you’re working full-time, part-time, temporary or contract positions and paid hourly, daily, monthly or piece-rated, you will be covered by the Employment Act.
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Working hours and overtime pay
According to the Employment Act, the maximum number of hours an employer can legally ask an employee to work per week is 44 hours except for a few exceptions. If you are a PME earning up to $2,500 a month or a workman earning up to $4,500 a month, you are supposed to get overtime pay.
But wait, hold up, don’t use the Employment Act to get you out of work. Instead, you should look at the reason why you are staying behind after office hours to complete the work you were assigned. Talk to your superior and ask for suggestions or feedback on your work performance and time management, and if it should be discovered that the reason why you are not completing your work on time is due to the impossible amount of work you are given, your superior might just delegate the work to other staff in the department instead.
You should earn more than the minimum wage
Singaporeans are facing rising costs of living with relatively stagnant salaries. So why hasn’t a minimum wage been put into place? Let us imagine the situation: Singapore has a minimum wage imposed and employers have to pay above a certain baseline in order to hire Singaporeans.
The minimum wage limit is reviewed every few years in order to keep up with the rising costs of living. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Except that for one, this will deter companies from investing in Singapore simply because the cost of labour is too high and secondly, employers will tend to just pay the minimum wage instead of paying Singaporeans what they really deserve. We found a “shamelessly” vandalized graphic “stolen” from NTUC by Doulos Yap who summarised unions’ plans to help Singaporean workers earn more than the minimum wage.
The Progressive Wage Model pushed by unions focuses on helping Singaporean workers get increased wages from skills upgrading, productivity improvement, career advancement and wage progression. Basically, your wage will increase based on your merits and employers will be more motivated to pay you more to retain your talent within the company.
Singaporeans Considered Fairly For Jobs
It’s always said that foreigners get the jobs that a Singaporean can do just as well. However, contrary to all the complaints online, socio-political site Five Stars and A Moon highlighted that 3% of people (or 176,000 people) living in Singapore hold Employment Passes (source from population.sg).
Pretty much lesser than what we initially thought, didn’t we? Instead of worrying about foreign talents snatching our jobs, we should be more concerned with the selection process. Currently, we have the Fair Consideration Framework, National Jobs Bank, levies for Work and S passes, minimum salaries for Employment Passes (aka Foreign Talent), wage subsidies for hiring older Singaporean PMEs and some other schemes.
But whether these measures are enough remains to be seen. In the meantime, we should probably be kiasu a bit and prepare ourselves to take over the higher management roles. Maybe we could get some overseas experience to show that we Singaporeans also can run MNCs as well as foreign talents. After all, who cares if you’re local or FT if you can do the job, right?
Now we come to the most important part of this article – the avenues available to you as a Singaporean employee. We can tell you all about the law and Employment Act and what employers are supposed to do and what they are not supposed to do, but honestly, when you are in that situation where you feel helpless, no amount of knowledge can help you, not unless you’re fully prepared to throw your resignation letter of course.
So here are a few avenues you can turn to for help on workplace protection, job placement and career progression: NTUC U PME Centres NTUC’s PME Unit has been lobbying for more protection for PMEs under the Employment Act, the change of the Employment Act can be largely credited to them.
They have 2 U PME centres in e2i and One Marina Boulevard; and an additional centre which is virtually everywhere, or should I say, a virtual centre. The U PME centres exist to create awareness of PME’s employment rights and placement services.
However, one thing PMEs have to recognise is that in order for NTUC to represent them in seeking redress and addressing workplace issues with your employer, one has to join NTUC as a member; if not, all NTUC can do for you is to offer advice and nothing further.
Employment and Employability Institute (e2i)
E2i offers employability programmes, professional development programmes, PME workshops etc, a resource that all Singaporeans should at least take a look at to see if there are any avenues for them to upgrade their own skill sets to make them more competitive in today’s workforce. E2i also has a blog that dispenses work hack advice.
CaliberLink provides career and training advice, organise workshops, and run programmes to enhance job search skills and employability. They provide platforms that professionals can use for self-discovery, self-exploration and self-enrichment. So if you ever find yourself in a bind, you might want to consider going for these avenues if possible.
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