A NEW law which requires bosses to offer re-employment to workers who reach retirement age could include provisions for resolving disputes that arise during the process, Manpower Minister Gan Kim Yong has said.
This could occur, for instance, if an employee believes he was unreasonably denied an opportunity to continue working beyond the age of 62.
A worker could also file a claim against an employer if there is a dispute over the Employment Assistance Payment (EAP) - payouts bosses must give workers they are unable to re-employ to help tide them over while they look for a new job.
Mr Gan, speaking to reporters after visiting the Punggol South ward in Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC, said the re-employment law will be tabled for debate and approval by Parliament early next year.
But as announced previously, the law will only take effect in 2012.
He said while there were dispute-resolution mechanisms under laws such as the Employment Act and Retirement Age Act, 'we may have to put in place additional provisions to facilitate resolution of some of the misunderstandings' that could arise in the area of re-employment.
Avenues available to workers include appealing to the Ministry of Manpower, or filing claims at its Labour Court.
He was asked to respond to a suggestion for a dispute-resolution mechanism for re-employment. The idea surfaced during a public consultation exercise by his ministry in September on the new law and guidelines on re-employment.
The law, aimed at stretching the working life of Singaporeans in light of longer life expectancies, will make it compulsory for bosses to offer re-employment for up to three years to those turning 62.
To qualify for re-employment, workers must be medically fit, have satisfactory performance, and must have worked for at least three years at the company.
Bosses who cannot re-employ eligible workers must offer them the EAP, which should range between a minimum of $4,500 and a maximum of $10,000.
There have been concerns the EAP could serve as a loophole for bosses to avoid having to re-employ retiring workers. There has also been debate on whether the EAP amount is reasonable.
Mr Gan said the suggestion for a dispute-resolution mechanism was a positive development which showed that 'people are thinking one step ahead'.
He was also confident that the number of disputes would be low as most would be resolved through conciliation, thanks to the close consultation between the Government, employers and unions.
But the focus now would have to be on working to ensure smooth implementation of the re-employment law by 2012 and beyond.
Thus, enacting the law early next year would give a clear idea of the key provisions and enough time for everybody to adjust to re-employment practices.
'By tabling the legislation, it will be a signal that these provisions have been finalised and that this is the shape of the legislation,' he said.
Another idea from the consultation was for the public sector - one of the largest employers - to lead in implementing re-employment policies before 2012.
Agreeing, Mr Gan noted the public sector has been preparing retiring officers for re-employment and would release further instructions by the year end to prepare for service-wide implementation.
One suggestion the ministry has agreed to is for EAP amounts to be pro-rated for part-time workers who are not re-employed.
During the three-hour walkabout, Mr Gan tried his hand at giving senior citizens a haircut, spoke to job-seekers at a job fair, and visited the Al-Mawaddah Mosque, among other things.
He also spoke on manpower issues during a dialogue with 250 residents, such as upgrading skills of low-wage workers and moderating the influx of foreign workers.
The Government has tried to moderate the influx, such as by raising levy rates. But 'foreign worker issues will be around as there will always be low-wage workers among us', he said. The way to help them is to continue to raise their skills to get better-paying jobs, he added.