MP Gerald Giam
MP Sylvia Lim

Mr Gerald Giam Yean Song asked the Minister for Manpower (a) from 2016 to date, how many appeals on re-employment disputes has the Ministry received annually; (b) how many of these appeals are successful; and (c) what are the main reasons for unsuccessful appeals.

Ms Sylvia Lim asked the Minister for Manpower regarding re-employment disputes reported in 2016 to 2020 (a) how many notifications have been received by the Commissioner for Labour under section 8A of the Retirement and Re-employment Act (RRA); (b) of these cases, how many and what proportion are subsequently referred to the Minister for decision under section 8B of the RRA after conciliation failed; and (c) what proportion of cases are found to be substantiated.

Ms Sylvia Lim asked the Minister for Manpower regarding re-employment disputes reported in 2016 to 2020, of the cases where the employee succeeded in obtaining compensation under sections 8A and 8B of the Retirement and Re-employment Act, in how many cases was the errant employer a public sector employer.

The Senior Minister of State for Manpower (Dr Koh Poh Koon) (for the Minister for Manpower): Mr Speaker, can I have your permission to take Question Nos 4 to 6 together, please? 

Mr Speaker: Yes, please. 

Dr Koh Poh Koon: Sir, MOM received about 80 re-employment disputes annually between 2016 and 2021. About 90% of the disputes were amicably resolved through the mediation process including instances where the employee subsequently withdrew his or her appeal. The remaining 10% were either escalated to the Minister for Manpower for a decision on unreasonable denial of re-employment or to the Employment Claims Tribunals (ECT) for disputes over re-employment terms or quantum of employment assistance payment.

 On average, about 10 cases a year are decided by the Minister or the ECT. Of these, 60%, or about six cases, were dismissed due to lack of merit, for example, the employee failed to meet the re-employment eligibility criteria due to unsatisfactory work performance or the employer was able to prove that there were no suitable vacancies for re-employment. The other 40%, or about four cases a year, were found to be substantiated and resulted in compensation to the employee from the employer. There was only one such case involving a public sector employer in 2018.

 To avoid disputes over re-employment, employers and employees should refer to the Retirement and Re-employment Act and the Tripartite Guidelines on the Re-employment of Older Employees. Employers should engage senior employees as early as possible to discuss possible re-employment arrangements. Senior employees should also be open to alternative jobs and reskilling opportunities to improve their long-term employability.

Mr Speaker: Mr Gerald Giam.

Mr Gerald Giam Yean Song (Aljunied): Mr Speaker, some of my elderly residents have shared with me their experiences of being passed over for jobs for younger candidates, or not getting re-employed after reaching retirement age. Many are reluctant to even try looking for work because of their bad experiences with age discrimination. Age discrimination is in the workplace is rooted in ageism, which is an attitude of the heart. Can MOM embark on a more extensive and sustain public education and engagement campaign to ingrain in the mindsets of everyone in Singapore, that age discrimination is morally, socially and legally unacceptable and ultimately hurts the ability of companies to attract and retain good workers.

The Senior Minister of State mentioned some numbers – he said 80 cases have been adjudicated. The fact that there are so few cases being adjudicated points to either two things: one, there is very little age discrimination in Singapore or two, older workers are not confident that the process will achieve their desired results. So, can the Ministry look into improving the reporting and appeals process to better assist older workers who have experienced age discrimination? 

Dr Koh Poh Koon: Sir, I think the Ministry will obviously continue to engage both employers and continue our public education to remind employees of their responsibilities and also to share the wider public as employees, what their rights are and what are the avenues for appeals or adjudication may be. That effort will be an ongoing one. It is not going to be something that we can do in a short period of time, because sometimes this messaging does take a while to percolate. And unfortunately, I think, sometimes until a person reaches a point where he or she faces that dilemma or the issue, some people may not be open to actually seek information or receive educational materials, when the thing comes. We are working actively through the unions who are representatives within the companies to also be a bit of a gatekeeper on how employers take care of the older workers within the company.

This tripartite effort will continue to be played out over the many years to come.

I would like to share with Mr Giam, that actually, in Singapore, our elder workers’ labour force participation is actually not that bad. Let me just share a few numbers. The employment rate of residents aged between 55 and 64 has actually increased from 61.2% in the year 2011 to 69% in 2021. For those aged 65 to 69, it has also increased from 35.2% in 2011 to 49% in 2021. This is comparable to those of the top three OECD countries.

So, while Mr Giam may have anecdotally encountered residents who do have grievances or perhaps not aware of their rights and find that they have been disadvantaged, I think, that the fact is that over the last many years, the labour force participation rates in our older workforce, has actually increased.

So, it shows that actually more employers are prepared to employ older workers and more older workers are also flexible enough and prepared to take on jobs and continue in the employment. But as it is, there will always be a few cases a year, who will find that they have either a mismatched expectation between the employment terms they seek or for which employers may still have misunderstanding about how they can better employ older workers. This is where our work will continue.

There are many avenues in which workers can seek redress. One, of course, is through their union representative in their company. Two, the Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management (TADM) is always there as a neutral party to receive any complaints from employees or senior workers about the terms of disengagement or any of the re-employment terms that they may feel is unfair. And finally, there is always MOM. We have an open email. They can write to us if they find that they are denied unjustifiably of re-employment opportunities. 

Mr Speaker: Ms Sylvia Lim.

Ms Sylvia Lim (Aljunied): Thank you, Speaker. Two supplementary questions for the Senior Minister of State. The first relates to cases that were decided by the Minister to be substantiated under section 8B of the Act. Am I right to assume that the compensation amount is usually a multiple of the employees’ last drawn salary? And if that is the case, could the Ministry share with us so far, what has been the range of the compensations ordered by the Minister in terms of how many months, what is the range?

And the second supplementary question is, it was announced in 2021 that anti-discrimination legislation would be worked upon. Does he have any update for us on this and when we can expect it to come into force.

Dr Koh Poh Koon: Sir, I thank the Member for the questions. In fact, this Employment Assistant Payment (EAP), the amount has been something that has been determined and a tripartite consensus is in the guidelines. There is a fixed formula which is used, so, it is not something that we just pluck a number out of thin air. Let me just briefly say that for those who are aged 63 to less than 65.5 years old, the number of months of salary payable is 3.5 months and for those who are 65.5 years old to less than 68 years old, in the formula, it provides for two months of salary payable. But for each of these quantum, there is a certain minimum and maximum that is stipulated in the formula. If the Member is keen, she can look up the website where all the information is available.

And as for updates, I think the Tripartite Committee is still looking at how we can translate the tripartite guidelines on Fair Employment Practices into legislation. Right now, the discussion is ongoing. So, again, there is no immediate updates at this moment, but at a suitable juncture in time when the discussions are more final, we will provide an update to the Members of the House.

Mr Speaker: Ms Sylvia Lim.

Ms Sylvia Lim: Thank you, Sir. Just to clarify the Senior Minister of State’s answer on the first question. In his answer, he mentioned the Employment Assistance Payment (EAP). But my concern was more about those cases where they were unreasonably denied re-employment, which is more a case of compensation. So, is he saying that the same formula applies to both scenarios?

Dr Koh Poh Koon: Mr Speaker, let me add a supplement to what the Member is asking. I think in adjudicating some of the compensation quantums, the Minister for Manpower will objectively look at the facts of the case because each case is different. There are cases in which employer may have to bear some responsibility and there are cases in which also the employee himself or herself has actually got to bear part of the responsibility for, perhaps, not communicating or not performing or not indicating his or her interest to further the re-employment contract.

So, in that sense, we take into account a myriad of factors: performance of the employee, years of service and including other aspects of the job scope, what were the terms of re-employment that were being offered, whether it was a fair description of the job that a person can meaningfully carry on. The health status of the employee also has to be looked into because certain jobs will require a certain degree of medical fitness to continue. Therefore, it is not a one-size-fits-all type of calculation on the compensation amount. I hope that kind of gives the Member a sense of how we look at it in terms of the matrix. But the quantum would vary from case-to-case.

Ministry of Manpower
4 October 2022

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