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Singapore

Employment of Foreign Manpower Act under review

The review will cover four key areas aimed at ensuring penalties for breaches are adequate, and that errant employers are held accountable.

Employment of Foreign Manpower Act under review

Construction workers in Singapore

SINGAPORE: The Manpower Ministry is reviewing the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act, and intends to implement the changes later this year.

The review will cover four key areas aimed at ensuring penalties for breaches are adequate, and that errant employers are held accountable.

In Parliament on Monday, Minister of State Tan Chuan-Jin said explicit provisions will be created to define major contraventions, instead of prosecuting them as part of other, less serious offences under the act.

These include the collection of kickbacks from foreign workers, the use of local "phantom workers" by employers to artificially boost their foreign worker quota, as well as the submission of fake qualifications.

The penalties will also be increased. Currently, maximum penalties for breaching work permit conditions are a S$5,000 fine and/or six months in jail. Mr Tan noted that these "do not adequately reflect the egregious nature of such acts", but did not specify the range of penalties being considered.

Third, authorities are looking into a new mechanism to complement criminal prosecution, to allow them to react quickly to regulatory contraventions.

Finally, the ministry will expand its powers of investigation to deal with increasingly complex syndicate operations. The proposed powers will be benchmarked to those provided under the Workplace Safety and Health Act and the Employment Agencies Act.

A public consultation exercise on the proposals will be held later this month.

Separately, the ministry is also reviewing the work pass conditions within the Employment of Foreign Manpower Regulations, to better clarify the responsibilities of employers, foreign workers and foreign domestic workers.

Mr Tan said our foreign labour force needs to be treated decently, particularly to ensure that employment rights are upheld and that workers are not subject to exploitative conditions.

As foreign workers play an important role in building our infrastructure and caring for our families, they should be treated in a manner that reflects our Singaporean values of fairness and respect for all workers.

He added that by and large, employers in Singapore are found to be responsible, and the majority of some 3,000 foreign workers surveyed said they are generally satisfied with their working conditions and intend to extend their contracts after they expire.

But Mr Tan said while the ministry will be tough on errant employers, not all cases are surfaced early enough. To prevent employers from mistreating workers, he said workers, the public and civic groups should help raise the matter to authorities as soon as possible.

Source: CNA/ac

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