THE Ministry of Manpower (MOM) wants to make itemised payslips compulsory within the next two years, and yesterday issued guidelines to prepare employers for this.

The guidelines, which MOM developed with the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) and the Singapore National Employers Federation, state that employers should issue itemised payslips to all employees at least once a month and no later than a week after the end of each month.

The tripartite partners had received feedback that smaller small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), especially "mom and pop" shops and hawkers, would find it difficult to issue itemised payslips.

"The guidelines therefore aim to prepare these businesses to change their practices in a sustainable way, so that they are able to comply when we make it a legal requirement," MOM said.

By April, employers will be provided with tools, such as simple payslip booklets, downloadable templates and funding support, to develop customised solutions to issue itemised payslips. MOM is working with the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore and Spring Singapore to develop these.

Itemised payslips would raise employees' awareness of what makes up their pay, and documentation could help resolve salary disputes too, MOM said.

NTUC assistant secretary-general Cham Hui Fong said the labour movement welcomes these guidelines as they would mean "greater transparency for workers".

Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (Asme) president Kurt Wee said such clarity and transparent benefits employers too, with little added cost burden. "I find it difficult to imagine how it can add significantly to costs. It's not so much costs, it's probably more about adding the administrative processes to ensure that documentation is clear," he said.

Asme found in its discussions with SMEs that many already do issue payslips, though these tend to be less detailed. "They do have the breakdown and details in the backroom, but never really implemented a system to print it out in the itemised format," said Mr Wee.

The tripartite guidelines issued yesterday state that the payslip, which can be issued in hard or soft copy, should include items such as basic salary, overtime hours, overtime pay, bonuses, transport and other allowances, the employee's and employer's CPF contributions, as well as deductions for damaged goods.

Mr Wee thinks the two-year time frame for implementing the new laws is reasonable and expects SMEs to be ready within 12 to 18 months.