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    Jun 21, 2016

    Contract workers eligible for leave

    CONTRACT workers who have worked in the same firm for three months or more are entitled to statutory leave benefits.

    It is also good practice for both employers and employees to give sufficient notice if either side decides not to renew the contract.

    These clarifications were made under new guidelines released yesterday by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), the labour movement and the Singapore National Employers Federation, which noted that contract workers are "a small but important part of the workforce".

    Last year, 202,400 Singaporeans and permanent residents were employed on term contracts, making up 11.3 per cent of the resident workforce.

    Some workers who have been working for the same employer for a long time do not currently get benefits such as annual leave, sick leave or childcare leave, as they are on separate contracts shorter than three months and renewed with a break in between the contracts, the statement added.

    "Hopefully, these guidelines can help close the loophole where fixed-term employees can be shortchanged by unscrupulous employers who deliberately break their contracts to deny them of their statutory employment benefits," said assistant secretary-general Zainal Sapari of the National Trades Union Congress.

    Under the guidelines, employers are encouraged to treat contracts renewed within a month as continuous, and grant leave benefits based on the cumulative term of contracts, for contracts of 14 days or more.

    Bosses could also pro-rate leave benefits based on the cumulative duration of the contract.

    For example, an employee who has worked for the same firm on three consecutive month-long contracts is entitled in his fourth month to benefits such as two days' of paid annual leave, based on seven days' of paid annual leave a year. He qualifies as long as he did not take a combined break of a month or longer in the three months. The breaks do not count towards his length of service.

    Employers should also keep to the notice period for early termination in the contract, said the guidelines.

    If the clause was not included, employers can check the MOM website on what they should do.

    Mr Zainal said the new guidelines "must be monitored closely for adherence".

    A legislative approach should be considered if moral suasion did not work, he added.

    Erman Tan, president of Singapore Human Resource Institute, welcomes the guidelines, adding that it has been receiving feedback from members on how to administer leave for temporary staff.

    A 64-year-old cleaner, who gave his name only as Mr Eng, has been on several contracts of one and three months for the same employer in the past year and did not know he is entitled to leave days.

    He said: "I will ask my boss about it.

    "Hopefully, they will allow me to backdate my leave and take a couple of days off so I can stay at home and accompany my wife."