What to Do if Your Employer Breaches Your Employment Contract

What to Do if Your Employer Breaches Your Employment Contract
14 Apr 2021

What to Do if Your Employer Breaches Your Employment Contract

In Singapore, employment contracts are prepared with a “freedom of contract” approach, in that both parties - employer and employee - can include the desired terms and conditions, provided they are not illegal. 

However, employment contracts are still subjected to certain provisions required by the law, as prescribed by the Employment Act. These include:

  1. Granting minimum number of annual leave days
  2. Payment for public holidays and sick leaves
  3. Disbursing salaries on a specific day of the month
  4. Ensuring statutory protection against wrongful dismissal
  5. Setting a notice period for termination

Should the employer fail to follow the provisions stipulated by the Act, he/she will be liable for a criminal offence and can face:

  1. Up to $6,000 in fines or six months of imprisonment, or both
  2. Up to $10,000 in fines or 12 months of imprisonment, or both, for repeat offenders

Often, events that amount to a breach of contract on the part of the employer include:

  1. Non-payment of salary, in pursuant to section 13(1) of the Employment Act
  2. Wrongful dismissal on insufficient reasonable grounds

Should your employer be in breach of your employment contract, you can consider the following methods of resolution. Alternatively, our employment lawyers in Singapore can advise you on the best way to move forward.

Action #1: Leave without notice if your employer does not pay within 7 days of the due date

Before leaving, you are advised to check and clarify the issues that have resulted in the late payment. Should you decide to leave eventually, provide your decision in writing, clearly stating your reasons for leaving. It should include details such as your salary amount, the date you were expected to receive your salary and non-payment on the part of your employer after seven days.

Action #2: Mediation with Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management (TADM)

The TADM provides advisory and mediation services to employees and employers until legal proceedings become necessary. Should your employer breach your contract due to the aforementioned reasons or other clauses prescribed in the contract that warrants attention, you can mediate with your employer. TADM will work with your HR department or any relevant personnel on the issues you are facing and guide the conversation towards a fair and amicable resolution.

Action #3: File a salary-related claim at the TADM

Unless you are a seafarer, domestic worker, statutory board employee or civil servant, you are entitled to apply for a salary-related claim at the TADM and claim up to $20,000 for each submission. Should you apply to the TADM through your union, you can claim an additional $10,000.

Action #4: File a wrongful dismissal claim at the TADM

The entitlements for wrongful dismissal claims are the same as those that are salary-related. In addition, statutory board employees or civil servants can file a claim if they were wrongfully dismissed due to maternity-related reasons, as prescribed by the Child Development Co-Savings Act.

If you file a joint claim for both salary issues and wrongful dismissal, your claims can amount to $40,000 and $60,000 for non-union and union members respectively.

Action #5: Lodge a claim at the Employee Claims Tribunal (ECT)

Should your claim be unsuccessful at the TADM, you will receive a Claim Referral Certificate by the TADM mediator according to section 6 of the Employment Claims Act 2016. With the certificate, you may proceed to file a claim at the ECT. The same claim amounts apply as above.

In the event you are unhappy with the order made by the tribunal, you can appeal to the General Division of the High Court. This is provided, under section 23 of the same act, the order goes against the grounds that involves a question of the law and the claim falls outside the jurisdiction of the tribunal.

Action #6: Seek legal assistance

If none of the above resolutions has helped you or you have no access to them, you may consider seeking legal help and filing a lawsuit against your employer for the breach of your employment contract. As the process may be costly, you should submit claims for tangible losses such as the non-payment of salaries, and not feelings of emotional distress or the equivalent. The latter may be difficult to quantify and you may not receive adequate compensation. It is therefore imperative to seek legal advice from an experienced employment lawyer before proceeding with your case. Speak to our attorneys in Singapore to get started.

For more information, please contact our Business Development Manager, Ricky Soetikno, at rickysoetikno@harryelias.com.