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New guidelines on leave for term contract workers

SINGAPORE — For the first time, leave benefits for term contract workers have been spelt out in a set of guidelines crafted by the Government, union and employers.

Reuters file photo

Reuters file photo

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SINGAPORE — For the first time, leave benefits for term contract workers have been spelt out in a set of guidelines crafted by the Government, union and employers.

If a contract of at least 14 days is renewed within one month of the previous contract, it should be treated as continuous, proposed the tripartite partners on Monday (June 20).

That way, the worker would be deemed to have served for more than three months more easily and qualify for leave benefits.

In contrast, some term contract workers are not given leave benefits currently because their contracts are spaced out with short breaks in 

Under the law, term contract employees are entitled to statutory leave benefits only if they meet a minimum service period of three months without a break. These leave benefits are annual leave, sick leave, maternity leave, paternity leave, adoption leave, childcare and extended childcare leave.

With the proposed change, a worker could more easily qualify for two days of paid annual leave, five days of paid sick leave and two days of paid childcare leave by the fourth month of service.

For the past three years, the proportion of term contract employees among the resident workforce stood at around 11 per cent. There were 202,400 of them last year (11.3 per cent), 205,500 in 2014 (11.8 per cent), and 189,600 in 2013 (11.2 per cent).

Noting that term contract workers “form a small but important part of our workforce”, the Ministry of Manpower, National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) and the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) said the guidelines were developed to “further clarify” the granting of leave benefits.

The tripartite partners also proposed pro-rated leave benefits for workers based on the length of their cumulative term contract.

Employers and term contract workers should also provide each other with sufficient notice before a contract expires so that they can make alternative arrangements, if necessary.

In the release, SNEF’s executive director Koh Juan Kiat said that employers value contract workers for the flexibility and contributions to their short-term business needs.

The guidelines provide employers “with the framework to offer term contracts which can better attract such workers”, said Mr Koh, who also urged employers to take a longer-term view of their manpower needs and create opportunities to retain such workers.

NTUC assistant secretary-general Zainal Sapari said that the labour movement will work with union leaders and relevant partners to ensure that employment practices are aligned with the guidelines. He said that the guidelines will help to ensure that the interests of contract workers are protected.

Workers who are hired on term contract basis, however, pointed out that companies are not obligated to adhere to the guidelines. They added that they are more concerned about remuneration when they take on a new term contract.

A 27-year-old term contract employee, who only wanted to be known as Mr Ng, also pointed out the current economic slowdown forces job-seekers to accept contractual terms given to them.

“Guidelines will ultimately act just as a guide for employers and with the current labour situation, (workers) don’t really have much of a choice ... what we look out for first is the salary before considering the annual leave,” he added.

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