This is a topic that’s widely discussed, but for simplicity’s sake, we’re going to use an example to illustrate this point.
BuffLord95 works in Baddy Feed, and the boss has been trying to find ways to terminate him even when he’s been performing well at work.
God knows why the boss wants BuffLord95 out; maybe his pay is too high, maybe he’s too handsome or maybe the boss just doesn’t like his face.
COVID-19 hit, and all of a sudden, it becomes the perfect opportunity for the boss to let go of BuffLord95 while getting some free monies.
He told BuffLord95 that the company’s not doing well, and he would have to let go of him.
BuffLord95 said, “Oh, okay. I’m so packed with many clients, but it’s okay I’ll hand them over to XiaoBeach73. Let me pack my stuff and—“
“Wait,” the boss said. “Not so soon. Your last day will be on 31 August 2020. Finish all the clients’ works first.”
“Because we’ve got too many clients now. By the way business is bad ah.”
Here’s what’s been going on in the boss’ mind: he could now retrench BuffLord95 without paying any benefits because he claimed that COVID-19 has hit the business hard, when he himself has just booked a new Mercedes S-Class.
He’s letting BuffLord95 go at the end of August so that he can get the full Job Support Scheme from the Government for BuffLord95’s salary, while still making him work like a horse.
And in our world, such an employer would definitely exist, so the authorities have a plan for that.
Companies That “Disguise Retrenchments” Might Have Job Support Scheme Wage Subsidies and Work Pass Privileges Revoked
Now, imagine that the boss then immediately engaged another person, someone who’s cheaper, to replace BuffLord95 on 1 September 2020; even the cats in Yishun would know what the boss is trying to achieve.
In Parliament today, when Members of Parliament Patrick Tay and Joan Pereira asked about fair treatment of workers when they are retrenched or have their wages reduced, especially during this COVID-19 period, Manpower Minister Josephine Teo has bad news for employers whose hearts are made of stone.
She said that should any companies have been found to have “disguised their retrenchments”, they might have their Job Support Scheme wage subsidies and work pass privileges revoked.
She added, “Even during the COVID-19 period, whatever the termination of employment is called, an employee is presumed to have been retrenched if the employer cannot show a plan to fill the vacancy any time soon.”
In other words, the retrenchment must be real lah—whether now or after COVID-19 period.
And they must pay benefits, too.
But of course, during this trying period, employers may negotiate the terms.
Ms Teo said, “The tripartite partners have therefore agreed that in instances of genuine financial difficulty for the employer, retrenchment benefits may be re-negotiated or moderated.
“The norms may have to be set aside in these abnormal times. Nevertheless, businesses should still give some support to retrenched employees, to the extent that they can afford.”
If your boss really buys a new Mercedes S-Class after retrenching some of you and engaging some cheap labour to replace you, and swee swee did it after August 2020, that’s definitely not genuine.
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