While many pieces of Singapore’s Employment Act were adapted to reflect a more modern standard, the biggest piece that changed and the one generating the most discussion has been the newly created ability for employees to follow through with wrongful dismissal claims against their employers. While some facets of wrongful dismissal were accounted for before the amendments were passed, the distinction of cases that could apply as wrongful dismissal were identified in an attempt to clarify what was eligible and decrease the frequency of these claims while increasing the rights of the employees in Singapore.
After setting up this opportunity to bring claims against employers, the question that remains is how do institutions ensure that norms are being followed and privileges are not being abused. Moreover, with the establishment of these new rules, the changes need to strictly define what constitutes an instance of wrongful termination, and what the next steps are after establishment of such a circumstance.
As with any new legislation, there will be a period of adjustment in order for employees and their employers to learn how to incorporate and follow the provisions of these new amendments. This transition period will be crucial for the proper determination and rollout of the full extent of the legislation.
There are some specific concepts established in this new legislation, one of which is the idea of just cause. Prior to these amendments, an employer could terminate an employee with notice or payment in lieu of notice as long as the employer had not breached any terms of the contract. With the new legislation, the employers may continue offering notice, payment without breaching any facet of the original agreement. However, if the employer does not have absolute just cause for dismissal, the employee now has the option to file a wrongful dismissal case against their employer.
Furthermore, employees may also file wrongful dismissal claims if they were terminated in a way inconsistent with the terms laid out in their initial employment contract. Additionally, employees who resign due to non-compliant behavior on the part of the employer will also have the means for filing a wrongful dismissal claim, or a more traditional, constructive dismissal claim.
One of the consequences of implementing this Act is that it may lead to an increase in the number of wrongful dismissal claims filed. One goal is that employees will learn the full extent of what is covered within the term ‘wrongful dismissal’ and not allow themselves to be bullied by supervisors or employees. It is further hoped that the more publicized and regulated the concept of ‘wrongful dismissal’ becomes, the less likely an employer will be to engage in practices that could produce claims of wrongful dismissal.
Among options outlined of what a successful wrongful dismissal claim could look like, is that an affected employee could receive reinstatement of their prior duties and pay, as well as any back pay they would have received had the employee not been dismissed. A second option would be for individuals not interested in reinstatement to receive a capped monetary compensation from the employer.
Overall, the new legislation requires employers to be more vigilant with their termination practices in Singapore. Ensuring that there is just cause for an employee to be terminated is a hopeful measure to ensure that employee rights are safeguarded in the workplace.