The re-employment act joke has just gotten bigger?

By: Leong Sze Hian

I refer to the article “Older workers can work until age 67 from July” (Straits Times, Jan 10).

It states that “If employers cannot find work for such workers in their companies, they can transfer them to their subsidiaries or another employer with the workers’ consent, or give them a one-off payment as a last resort.”

Does this mean that an employer can find another employer to offer any job on any salary on any terms – and if the employee does not accept – the employer just needs to pay a one-time amount of between “$5,500 and $13,000”?

One-time payment reduced to $3,500 to $7,500?

Actually, according to TAFEP‘s re-employment guidelines – “employers who are unable to offer re-employment to employees who have been re-employed for at least 30 months since age 62, could consider offering a lower EAP amount of 2 months of salary (subject to a minimum EAP of $3,500 and a maximum EAP of $7,500)”.

So, does this mean that the EAP can now be even lower at between “$3,500 and a maximum EAP of $7,500”?

Moreover, since “The amount of the payment, which is provided for but not spelt out under the law, is at the discretion of the employer” – does it mean that employer can choose to pay just the minimum of $5,500 or $3,500 as the case may be?

Employer determines “satisfactory performance”, “healthy”, “able to work”?

Also, does it mean that the employer can solely and arbitrarily decide on whether the employee has “satisfactory work performance and are healthy and able to continue working”?

Employers can simply cut pay before age 60?

With regard to “On removing the law that allows employers to cut the pay of workers at age 60, Mr Lim said that joint efforts by unions, employers and the Government have been successful in getting companies to move away from a wage system where they peg salaries to years of service.

The wage-cut provision was introduced in 1999 when the retirement age was raised from 60 to 62 to help employers manage their wage bills. But by 2011, this was already not practised by 98.5 per cent of companies with employees aged 60 and above”

More issues?

Labour MP Patrick Tay (West Coast GRC) urged the Manpower Ministry (MOM) to monitor employers who may abuse the new provision that allows them to transfer workers to another employer, as there may be cases where “the terms, conditions, environment and nature of work in the new job may vastly differ from what they had been previously employed in”” – does it mean the the new employer can offer any job on any salary on any terms?

As to “Non-Constituency MP (NCMP) Leon Perera said the law does not require employers to state reasons for terminating employment contracts, thereby allowing employers to discriminate against older workers and dismiss them without leaving a paper trail” – does it mean that employers can terminate employees without having to give any reason, at anytime, before or even after age 65?

With regard to “Mr Zainal and NCMP Daniel Goh called for the retirement age of 62 to be done away with completely, given that the re-employment age is being raised from 65 to 67.

On doing away with the retirement age, Mr Lim said that re-employment differs from retirement in that while it allows a worker to keep working, the worker need not be re-hired to do the same work or be receiving the same pay” – does this mean that raising the retirement age to 67 may give more protection to employees, whereas the re-employment act allows employers to offer any job at any salary at any terms?

In respect of “Responding, Mr Lim said that the MOM will monitor the implementation of the law closely to prevent abuses” – does it not make you wonder how effective any “monitoring of the implementation of the law closely to prevent abuses” may be, when the law is so weak in the first place?

21% age 60 and above are contract workers?

With regard to “in June 2015, we still have 21 per cent of resident employees aged 60 and above (who) were on term contracts,” said Assoc Prof Tan, who warned that the regulatory burden of the new legislation may drive more employers to place older employees on term contracts.

“The one-year term contract, or a three-year contract, to be reviewed yearly, sustains a sense of insecurity (around) contract review and renewal, which is not the right way to treat a senior employee and colleague,” said Assoc Prof Goh.

“There is a possibility for the loss of benefits in the switch from regular employment, to the re-employment contract. This loss of benefits – whilst being employed doing the same work for the same company, in the same workplace with the same colleagues – is solely due to the employee reaching a certain age.

Is this not unfair, smacking of ageism and stigmatising for the senior Singaporeans? – does it mean that the re-employment act does not apply to contract workers? Don’t you think that the re-employment act joke has just gotten bigger?

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