THE public will get to air its views on proposed changes to the Employment Act next month.

The changes are aimed at giving workers better protection by setting out the minimum employment terms and benefits.

Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin told The Straits Times that discussions on changes to the Employment Act have taken place behind closed doors with unions and employers "over the months and year", but public views will be sought "soon... in the next month or so".

He declined to elaborate on what the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), employers and union officials have discussed so far, saying: "It wouldn't make sense to discuss this on a very public forum."

The MOM announced in April that it will review the Act. The law was last updated in 2008.

Giving an update this week, Mr Tan said that while the MOM is looking at how the Act protects "all groups" of workers, the process will be divided into two phases. The first phase, which the MOM will likely be wrapping up in the first quarter of next year, will involve giving better legal protection to professionals, managers and executives (PMEs).

Now, only those who earn less than $2,000 each month are fully covered by the Act, and the labour movement has lobbied for the salary ceiling to be raised so that more PMEs can be brought under its protection.

The Act spells out the minimum terms and benefits such as leave and medical perks. It also provides redress to workers to resolve disputes with their employers and recover unpaid salaries.

"PMEs is a growing segment of the workforce and it would make sense to look at this... to open up the space from where we are now," Mr Tan said.

Contract workers may also get better protection, but they will have to wait longer. Changes to protect them will be covered in the second part of the review, he added.

Explaining the two-step approach, Mr Tan said the areas were prioritised "not so much in terms of importance", but rather how long it takes to gather views on the changes to be made.

Citing contract work as an example of a "complex" area, he explained that the MOM will need more time to work on it because contract workers are a "disparate group" covering different industries and players.

"We've evaluated it and we see that maybe, let's move with those things that we can move faster first - rather than get everything ready and then move in one chunk," he said.

The minister added that the MOM took a similar two-step approach when it amended the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act (EFMA) this year.

Besides the Employment Act and EFMA, he hinted that a third law might be up for review next year. "We are concurrently consulting tripartite partners to see if the Industrial Relations Act needs to be similarly reviewed," Mr Tan said.