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Singapore launches employment tribunals for white-collar workers

New Employment Claims Tribunals (ECTs) in Singapore have started operation, hearing contractual salary-related claims from workers who earn more than S$4,500 (£2,586) a month.03 Apr 2017

Claims will include the payment of allowances, bonuses, commissions, salary in lieu of notice and retrenchment benefits, provided that these are expressed in monetary terms in the contract, the State Courts said.

This group of people is not covered under Singapore's Employment Act and their only recourse to date has been through the civil courts, the SCourts said.

The ECT will also hear all statutory salary-related claims from those employees who are covered under the Employment Act, Retirement and Re-employment Act, and Child Development Co-Savings Act, taking over the functions of what was known as the Labour Court at the Ministry of Manpower, the Courts said.

These statutory salary-related claims include unpaid salary, overtime pay, salary in lieu of notice, employment assistance payments, and maternity benefits.

The ECT will only hear cases that have undergone mediation at the Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management (TADM), the Ministry of Manpower approved mediation centre. If mediation is unsuccessful, parties will then be given a certificate to file a claim at the ECT.

The ECT is designed to provide a fast, low-cost forum for dispute resolution, similar to small claims tribunals, the Courts said. It will have simplified procedures and will be judge-led, with no lawyers. Because of this, it will only have jurisdiction to hear claims worth up to S$20,000, or S$30,000 if the dispute has already undergone mediation assisted by a union.

Presiding judge of the State Courts, Justice See Kee Oon said: "The State Courts continuously seek to be responsive to the evolving needs of society, and we recognise that certain matters can benefit from a judge-led and less adversarial approach in a tribunal setting. The launch of the ECT is another example of the State Courts’ ongoing efforts to provide better access to justice and serve society."

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