SINGAPORE: Self-employed persons (SEPs), more commonly known as freelancers, can soon take out an insurance product to protect themselves against loss of income from prolonged medical leave, said Second Minister for Manpower Josephine Teo in Parliament on Monday (Mar 5).
The availability of such an insurance product was one of seven recommendations made by a tripartite work group. The Government has accepted the recommendations.
Currently, these freelancers – who include taxi drivers, private-hire drivers and sport coaches – can buy additional riders on top of their private insurance plans to mitigate the income interruption. "However, there is a lack of an affordable standalone prolonged medical leave products today. This means SEPs have no alternative if they do not wish to buy the main insurance product," she said.
"I am encouraged that NTUC Income is keen to develop a prolonged medical leave insurance product that will fulfill the work group's recommendations. Other insurance companies may also step forward to offer such insurance," she said.
As a start, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has identified two occupational groups that comprise about 30 per cent of all SEPs to promote such insurance to. One group comprises sports coaches and instructors who mostly provide their service to schools.
To this end, the Education Ministry has agreed in-principle to help shape a new norm by contracting only with self-employed coaches and instructors who have such insurance coverage, she said.
These coaches and instructors should also work the cost of their insurance into their work or project bids, she added.
Taxi and private-hire drivers make up the second group.
Mrs Teo said her ministry is working with the Land Transport Authority, as well as the National Taxi Association and National Private Hire Vehicles Association on how they can ensure active taxi and private hire car drivers have prolonged medical leave insurance coverage.
CONTRIBUTE-AS-YOU-EARN NOT A REQUIREMENT NOW
To ensure healthcare and retirement adequacy, the "contribute-as-you-earn" (CAYE) model was mooted by the work group as a mechanism that would deduct and transmit a sum from the fee for services delivered by SEPs to their Medisave account.
Mrs Teo said that the Government agrees to study how such a model can be implemented and to take the lead in implementing CAYE.
"Government Procurement Entities aim to start a pilot by 2020 which will allow us to work through the implementation issues for CAYE and help smoothen its subsequent implementation in the private sector," Mrs Teo said.
Currently, SEPs are required to contribute to their Medisave on an annual basis, and can make voluntary CPF contributions to build up their retirement savings. About one in four SEPs have not been keeping up with the Medisave contributions, she said.
ADDITIONAL HELP FOR SEPs TO IMPROVE WORKING CONDITIONS
To tackle payment-related disputes, which is a common challenge cited by SEPs, MOM has launched the Tripartite Standard on Contracting with SEPs.
Service buyers who adopt the tripartite standard will need to discuss and agree clearly with the SEPs terms of engagement such as the range of services to be delivered, project timelines and milestones, and payment schedules in writing.
SEPs will be able to identify and contract with progressive buyers who adopt the standard, Mrs Teo said.
Should disputes still arise, sector agencies can continue to step in to mediate between service providers and buyers. For example, the Land Transport Authority mediates in disputes between taxi operators and taxi drivers.
For other SEPs, the Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management will extend its voluntary mediation services to all SEPs from now on.
To make their careers more sustainable, Mrs Teo said that the Government and tripartite partners are keen to work with more SEP associations to develop competency frameworks, such as for training and accreditation.