IN the first Tripartite Standard rolled out on Monday, nearly 300 employers have agreed to provide term contract workers with leave benefits and termination notice period based on their cumulative length of service.
The employers, who embraced the Tripartite Standard on Employment of Term Contract Employees, will also train these workers so that they can do their jobs well.
The Employment Act says that to be eligible for leave benefits - annual, sick and other leave - an employee must work for the same employer for at least three months. His cumulative length of service is taken into account in leave perks only if his term contract is 14 days or more - and the contract is renewed within one month of its expiry.
Second Minister for Manpower Josephine Teo, the guest-of-honour at Monday's launch, said in her speech that many term contract workers don't get to enjoy leave benefits like regular employees - even if they have worked for more than the minimum three months with the same boss.
"Sometimes, it is because they are ignorant about their legal entitlements and were blatantly short-changed," she said. "In other instances, employers do not recognise their past service because of breaks in their contracts."
The Tripartite Standards are developed by the Ministry of Manpower, National Trades Union Congress and Singapore National Employers Federation in a push for progressive employment practices. In March, Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say said during the Budget debate that these standards would fill the gap in employment laws. They also offer employers guidelines on best practices.
Mrs Teo said that the Tripartite partners are focusing on term contract staff because they are already "a regular part of our workforce", accounting for one tenth of Singapore's resident workers.
Many companies also expect to use more of the "augmented workforce" in future, including term contract employees, she added.
"Third, and perhaps most significant of all, while the term contract arrangement serves the employers well, they don't always serve the employees well."
According to a survey by consulting firm Deloitte Southeast Asia, presented at the Tripartite Standard rollout, many of the "augmented workforce" deem their employers to be "weak" in managing them.
In other words, Mrs Teo said, a big chunk of term contract workers think there's much room for improvement.
She said that the Tripartite partners are looking for companies with an inclusive mindset towards their term contract staff.
Term contract workers would want to be included in every way, according to her. "This will include being eligible for all types of benefits, but more importantly to be considered for performance bonuses, wage increases and career advancement opportunities."
But while these demands are "not unreasonable", Mrs Teo said that to include them now would deter many employers from adopting the Tripartite Standards. "On balance, the Tripartite partners agree that we should allow more employers to first come on board, with a view to raising the Standards at a later stage."
Employers who sign up for the Tripartite Standard on Employment of Term Contract Employees are committed to recognise the cumulative length of service fairly when calculating leave entitlements. They must add up all contracted periods of 14 days or more, as long as the breaks in service are within a month.
The employers must also serve notice for early termination or non-renewal of contract fairly. They should similarly recognise their contract worker's cumulative length of service on when to serve the notice. The longer the cumulative length of service, the longer the notice period.
On extending training to term contract workers, Mrs Teo said that it's not just good for employers to help these workers stay employable; it's also in the employers' interest that the workers are well-trained and effective.
The 296 bosses who have accepted the Tripartite Standard on Employment account for about 26,000 or around 15 per cent of all term contract workers. They include bosses in the public and private sector, with the latter ranging from hospitality, retail, food & beverage to manufacturing and professional services.
Mrs Teo said that these employers would be publicly recognised on the website of the Tripartite Alliance for Fair & Progressive Employment Practices and later the Jobs Bank.
Four more Tripartite Standards will be rolled out by end-2017, with more to come next year.