Guide for fresh graduates: Understanding employment laws

You're fresh out of school and the world is your oyster. While you get all excited about stepping into the corporate world, remember that with great power comes great responsibility. It’s clichéd but true – so what you should probably gear yourself with, besides a great résumé, is knowledge about your rights and responsibilities as an employee in Singapore. Here are the common questions you may find yourself asking, and the answers to them:

Q: I’ve been offered a job, what should I look out for before signing the employment contract?

A: Congratulations! Before you sign on the dotted line, make sure you understand what you are being hired to do. Read through the terms and conditions and take note of the following:

-Are there penalties for failing to meet performance targets or resignation within a certain period of service?
-Are there charges for tools or uniforms that are needed to perform the job?
-What are the notice periods for terminating the contract?
-Is there a clause that prohibits you from being employed in similar positions after leaving the company?

Discuss and clarify with your employer should any terms be unclear. Make sure that any verbal agreements are written down and included in the employment contract. Be wary of being pressured into accepting a job offer. Review the employment contract carefully and ensure that you fully understand and agree with all terms and conditions before signing the employment contract.
By signing the employment contract, you are legally obligated to fulfill all the terms stated in the contract. Your employer may sue you for compensation if you fail to perform your contractual obligations.

Q: When should my salary be paid?

A: Your salary shall be paid at least once a month and within seven days after the end of the salary period. Your employer is not allowed to make deductions from your salary unless allowed by law, such as for CPF contributions, damage/loss of goods entrusted to you or absence from work.

Q: Is there a maximum amount of time I’m allowed to work for?

A: You should not work more than 8 hours in a day, or 44 hours in a week. However, if you are required to work more than 5 days in a week, you may work up to 9 hours each day or 44 hours each week. Inclusive of overtime work, you are not permitted to work more than 12 hours in a day.

Q: How should I be remunerated for overtime work?

A: All work in excess of your contractual working hours is considered as overtime work, and shall be paid at a rate of at least 1.5 times of your hourly basic pay. Overtime pay cannot be replaced with annual leave or off-in-lieu.

Q:How many days of rest, annual leave and sick leave should I be entitled to?

A: You are entitled to one rest day (unpaid) each week. The rest day fall on any day. On top of this, you’re entitled to at least seven days of paid annual leave in a year. If you have served for at least three months (but less than a year), you are entitled to pro-rated annual leave.

If you have served for at least three months, you are also entitled to pro-rated sick leave. If you have served for at least six months, you are entitled to 14 days of paid outpatient sick leave and 60 days of paid hospitalization leave (inclusive of the 14 days of outpatient sick leave).

Q: What if I have to work on a public holiday?

A: If you are required to work on a public holiday, you will be entitled to one extra day’s salary in addition to your pay for that holiday. Alternatively, your employer may also substitute the public holiday for any other day.

Q: What if I want to resign?

A: Either you or your employer may terminate the employment contract by providing the other party notice of his intention to terminate the contract. The length of the notice period shall be the same for both parties. If either you or your employer is unable to serve the notice period, the party who is unable to serve the notice period is obligated to pay to the other party a sum equal to the salary that you would have earned during the notice period.

The above information is taken from Employment Laws for School Leavers Guide produced by Tripartite Alliance for Fair Employment Practices. All information is correct as of March 2011.

Get a copy of the guide here.

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