08 Dec 2020
Legislation and cases

Unlike jurisdictions such as Australia and the United Kingdom, there are no laws in Singapore that impose reporting obligations on business organizations. Notwithstanding that, numerous laws exist in Singapore to protect the rights of certain categories of employees, such as foreign employees who are at greater risk of being discriminated against. For example, under Singapore’s Employment of Foreign Manpower Act, it is an offence if employers do not pay foreign employees their contractual fixed monthly salaries. Employers who are convicted of such offences, are liable to fines and terms of imprisonment of up to a year.

A former director of a Singapore confectionery chain was fined S$65,000 (approx. US$ 48,200)  for underpaying seven foreign employees of about S$114,000 (approx. US$ 84,600)  between December 2016 and November 2018 and the company itself was fined S$ 119,500 (approx. US$ 88,300). In passing the sentence, the judge noted that foreign employees were on an unequal bargaining position with the company, as they wanted to work in Singapore and might be agreeable to accepting lower salaries, but stressed that "it is incumbent on companies that they are paid minimum salaries".

Business practices

Since 2016, all companies listed on the Singapore Exchange (SGX) must prepare a sustainability report on a “comply or explain” basis, which includes, among others, material environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors that affect the issuer’s performance and prospects, and a minimal description of how issuers manage the material factors identified. In a guidance published in June 2016, SGX outlined that the definition of social factors may encompass health and safety, employment practices and labour rights such as collective bargaining, as well as product responsibility, anti-corruption and supplier assessments. The sustainability reports of some SGX-listed companies include human rights disclosure, although such disclosure is not mandatory.

What do you predict for 2021?

At present, there is no indication of any major legislative changes to modern slavery laws and the business human rights regime in Singapore.

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Wilson Ang
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