Post-COS Dialogue with Mr Zaqy Mohamad, Minister of State, Ministry of National Development and Ministry of Manpower

On 20th March, our IHRP-certified professionals attended the Post-COS Dialogue with Minister of State for National Development and Manpower Mr Zaqy Mohamad. The event was jointly organised by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and Tripartite Alliance for Fair & Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP).

Key highlights of the announcements centred around government programmes and grants which would provide support for employers, in preparation for the challenges that lie ahead, including the COVID-19 situation.

One key area of the COS announcement was ensuring fair opportunities through empowering mid-career workers in their 40s and 50s to take charge of their careers by refreshing their skills through the SkillsFuture Mid-Career Support Package and through supporting employers to redesign jobs through the Productivity Solutions Grant and SkillsFuture Enterprise Credit.

Another area was stiffer penalties meted for companies who do not practice fair employment announced in the recent COS announcement and earlier in Jan 2020.

Under the expanded Fair Consideration Framework (FCF), which sets out requirements for all employers in Singapore to consider the workforce in Singapore fairly for job opportunities, employers submitting Employment Pass applications must first advertise on MyCareersFuture.sg and fairly consider all candidates. From 1 May 2020, the job advertising requirement will cover job positions paying a fixed monthly salary of less than $20,000. This is so that more jobs are made available to local PMETs as part of a fair hiring process, and not be restricted to “closed circles of friends”. MOM will take action against employers and key personnel who make false declarations that they have considered all candidates fairly.Other announcements included schemes to ensure fair hiring, fair competition and provide fair support. The key goal of these schemes is to enable workforce transformation and increase productivity. During the Q&A session moderated by Professor Annie Koh from SMU, key issues brought up pertain to how companies should respond in managing the business impact and operational issues relating to COVID-19. Mr Zaqy shared that engagement and communication with employees is essential during this period. Significant investments have been made in wage and training support, to help businesses retain their workers, and companies should consider using this period to train and upgrade their skills.

Mr Zaqy shared that if need be, companies may refer to the Tripartite Advisory on Managing Excess Manpower and Responsible Retrenchment for clearer guidance. However, they should bear in mind that there are many alternatives to retrenchment and that MOM’s current focus is on preventing large-scale job losses, helping businesses stay afloat and helping workers stay employed.

As shared in Mr. Zaqy’s presentation, some alternative solutions include training and skills upgrading, a flexible work schedule and adjustments to salary and work arrangements. FWA grants such as the Enhanced Work-Life Grant are available, especially during this period and companies are encouraged to offer flexible work arrangements for employees. Under implementing a flexible work schedule, companies can consider time banking where employers can consider reducing weekly working hours, creating a “timebank” of unused working hours. These can then be used to offset the increase in working hours in subsequent periods. In offsetting future overtime pay, the employee (or union if company is unionised) and employer may agree on the rate at which the accrued hours are to be valued.

In the current situation, employers should also take note that they must notify MOM within 7 days if cost-cutting measures taken during the current slowdown have affected workers’ salaries and indicate that they have done so fairly. This notification requirement encourages a sense of responsible implementation, prevents downstream salary disputes and enables tripartite partners to provide appropriate support.

Mr.Zaqy encouraged companies to leverage on schemes to innovate, transform and change the way they work to build long term capabilities and consistencies, and therefore emerge stronger and more resilient.

Log in to IHRP Connect to access the deck shared by Minister of State for National Development and Manpower Mr. Zaqy Mohamad during the event!