Employment law in Singapore – an overview
01 December 2020
Singapore’s rapid economic development since it gained independence in 1965 is well documented. This economic success, combined with the country’s lightly regulated business environment, has long made it a natural “hub” for many multinational employers. This in-brief provides an overview of some of the key aspects of employment law in Singapore.
The employment law landscape
Employment law in Singapore can be described as “employer friendly” and the relationship between the employer and employee is regulated largely by the contract of employment between them. Generally under Singapore law, parties are free to contract as they choose and any matters arising between them would have to be resolved by looking at the express and/or implied terms of the contract in question.
There is no fully integrated employment legislation, but the Employment Act of Singapore (Chapter 91) (“EA”) is the primary statute regulating the employment relationship. This provides for the basic terms and conditions at work for employees covered by the EA.
In terms of employment protection and rights, Singapore divides its workforce into two different categories - employees who are covered under the EA (“EA Employees”) and employees who are not covered under the EA (Non-EA Employees). The employment terms and conditions of Non-EA Employees are principally governed by their employment contracts.
This policy was designed by the government in the first years after independence to support economic development, by ensuring that employment regulation was not so unduly restrictive that it impeded the influx of foreign capital and talent.
While the employment environment remains lightly regulated to this day by European standards, recent years have seen an increasing flow of laws to address specific issues related to Singapore’s maturing economy and workforce. Employees now receive more entitlements and protections. This can be seen in new statutory leave entitlements such as the laws regulating paternity leave, maternity leave, adoption leave and shared parental leave.
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