GUIDELINES were unveiled on Tuesday to help employers, especially those in small and medium firms, to be ready for the day when it's compulsory to spell out employment terms in writing to workers.

The Tripartite Guidelines On The Issuance Of Key Employment Terms (KETs), drawn up by the government, employers and unions, "aim to prepare businesses to progressively change their HR practices before they are required by law to issue KETs in writing".

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has said in April that employers will be required by law to put the KETs in writing by the first half of 2016, in tandem with the mandating of itemised payslips.

The Tripartite guidelines unveiled on Tuesday spelt out who should receive the KETs in writing, when should the KETs in writing be given, what are the KETs to be provided in writing and where to seek further help.

MOM, which announced the guidelines, said they were drawn with the SMEs very much in mind as some have indicated they may find the issuance of KETs in writing challenging.

Responding to the release of the guidelines on Tuesday, the labour movement said in a media statement that the guidelines would translate into greater transparency for workers. "Providing workers with proper written terms will go some way to help them better understand their employment terms, salary and benefits components as well as provide a means of proper documentation," the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) added.

The labour movement has been pushing for changes to ensure that workers are better protected under the Employment Act. One change it's been lobbying for since November 2012 was to include in the Act a provision for proper employment contracts and payslips.

According to the Tripartite guidelines, drawn by MOM, the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) and NTUC, all workers employed continuously for at least 14 days should be provided with KETs in writing. Bosses are encouraged to provide the KETs in writing before the worker starts work. If not, they should provide the terms no later than 14 days after the start of employment.

The KETs should include the name of employer; name of employee; job title and main duties and responsibilities; starting date of employment; duration of employment for those on fixed contract; daily working hours, number of working days per week and rest days; salary period; basic salary per salary period; fixed allowances per salary period; fixed deductions per salary period; overtime payment period if different from salary period; overtime rate of pay; other salary-related components; leave entitlements; other medical perks; probation period; and notice period for termination of employment.

The guidelines say employers could provide the written KETs in hard or soft copy, or both. For Work Permit holders, some of the KETs should be included in the In-Principle Approval letter as part of the Work Permit application process.

"Employers are encouraged to provide the key employment terms in a language that the employees understand," the guidelines say. "If this is not possible, employers are encouraged to verbally communicate the key employment terms in a language that the employee understands."

Employers who require further help can approach the SNEF (Tel: 6327 9297) or the SME Centres in various parts of Singapore.