The Law of Dismissal of Employees in Singapore (including grievance handling and discipline)

Introduction:

 

As of 1 April 2014, professionals, managers and executives ( PMEs ) earning a basic salary of not more than $4,500 are now covered under the Employment Act and may seek redress against wrongful and unfair dismissal by their employers with the Ministry of Manpower. The treatment of this category of employee would now be quite similar to the rank and file employees who are covered under the Employment Act. This is notwithstanding that there is also another category of common law employee ( earning above a basic salary of $4500 ) in which human resource practitioners would similarly need to manage as if they are wrongfully and unfairly dismiss, the recourse is through the civil courts.

However, it has been announced that come 1 April 2019, all employees, including senior management staff, would now be able to seek relief if they are dismissed “without just cause or excuse.  It would appear from the Parliamentary exchange that post-April 2019 dismissal cases would fall to be decided first through mediation at the Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management, failing which through an Employment Claims Tribunal under the Employment Claims Act 2016. This may be a change from the existing position, where applications for reinstatement are decided by the Manpower Minister.

 Therefore, what should HR practitioners do in view of the forthcoming changes? Can HR practitioners use the same approach to dismissing the employee?

Also, it is important to manage employee separation with care regardless of whether the employee is leaving because of resignation, redundancy, retirement, death, frustration, the expiry of contract or dismissal. Firstly, it minimises the risk of legal problems and secondly, it protects the reputation of both the business and the employer. Employees who leave employment on a pleasant note are more likely to recommend their previous employer thus building a branding of the employer of choice.

Employers should use fair procedures when terminating employees as replacing employees is expensive and claims for unfair or unlawful dismissal can be costly and time-consuming to defend. Also, what may be seen as an unfair process can affect workplace morale.  An insufficient appreciation of the difference between a termination of an employment contract and a dismissal of an employee from his employment is also contributing to this escalation as this is deducible from the nature of claims filed and their chances of success at the end of most litigation.

At the end of this workshop, delegates can be assured that they will be more competent in their understanding of grievance and disciplinary handling, as well as the dismissal of an employee in Singapore.

Course Outline:

A competent HR practitioner must have the knowledge and skills in the following:

1. Grievance-Handling

• What constitutes a misconduct.
• Understanding the grievances of employees.
• Differences between grievances, complaints and whistle-blowing.
• Consequences of mishandling grievances.
• Handling grievance effectively.
• Company’s grievance-handling procedure.

2. Misconduct

• What constitutes a misconduct.
• Minor and major misconduct.
• Policy on the code of conduct.
• Whether misconduct constitutes a breach of contract.
• Disobedience.
• Negligence or incompetence.
• Committing criminal offences.

3. Discipline and Disciplinary Action:

• Definition of discipline.
• The need to discipline.
• Progressive discipline.
• Company’s code of conduct.

4. Modes of Cessation of employment contract

• Performance (Retirement).
• Agreement (termination clause, retrenchment, the expiry of fixed term contract ).
• Repudiatory breach ( misconduct, fail probation, bankruptcy).
• Frustration ( rest in peace ).
• Remedies for wrongful dismissal.
• Reinstatement or pay for damages.

5. “Dismissal”

• Employee as defined in section 2 ( statutory and common law ) of the Employment Act.
• Definition of dismissal.
• Definition of statutory and common law ( PME ) employee.
• Contract of service versus contract for service.
• Differences in dismissal between statutory and common law employees ( those earning below a basic salary of $4500 and those above a basic salary of $4500 ).
• Differences between dismissal with notice and dismissal without notice.

6. The test to be applied for Misconduct

• Implied terms.
• Express terms.
• The duty of the employer
• The duty of the employee
• Illustration of misconduct
• Dismissal is the employer’s prerogative.

7. Unsatisfactory work performance

• Employment contract undermines by poor work performance.
• Misconduct to be differentiated from poor work performance.
• Evidence of shortcomings.
• Process for dismissal for poor work performance.
• Bearing on Retirement and Reemployment Act.

8. Employee committing a criminal offence at the workplace/outside the workplace

• Solutions to an employer’s dilemma over an employee who committed a criminal offence.
• Standard of proof btw required in judicial court and disciplinary inquiry.
• Nexus test to be applied to an employee’s job.
• Criminal offence versus breach of company’s rules and regulations.
• Private conduct versus non-private conduct.
• Doctrine of autrefois acquit and autrefois convict.
• The need for a disciplinary inquiry.
• How to handle employee released on police’s or court’s bail

9. Suspension, investigation and disciplinary inquiry

• Disciplinary inquiry process with trade union / without trade union.
• Differentiation between statutory and common law employee.
• Suspension with pay or without pay and duration of the suspension.
• Investigation to the complaint.
• Conducting the disciplinary inquiry.
• Framing disciplinary charges.
• Disciplinary inquiry hearing procedure.
• Recognition of medical certificate from private versus public clinic doctors in and outside Singapore.
• Termination whilst on hospitalisation leave.
• Eligibility of public holidays for General Election and Presidential Election.

Methodologies

Lecture and case studies.

Who should attend?

Human Resource practitioners, Industrial Relations practitioners, lawyers, in-house legal counsels, line managers, executives and any other persons keen to acquire a good understanding of the law of dismissal of employees in Singapore.

Workshop Registration

Please click here to register.