A member of the public, Low Boon Seong, wrote to ST Forum on Saturday (25 April) highlighting how the Jobs Support Scheme (JSS) introduced by the Government to help employers retain their staff may help employees, but responsible employers still have to bear other costs of a slowing economy due to the pandemic.
Mr Low referred to an article published by the Straits Times, titled Use jobs support aid to pay staff or lose future payouts: MOM, which stated that the Manpower Ministry (MOM) will punish employers who reduce their staff salaries or place them under no-pay leave during this tough economic times.
The article reported that the Ministry will stop giving out future payouts or cut work pass privileges to errant employers who take advantage of their employees.
“MOM has received feedback that a number of companies have not paid salaries during the circuit breaker period,” it said.
It added, “While we understand that employers may themselves face difficulties, it is not reasonable to implement extended no-pay leave or other wage-saving measures without engaging or seeking the consent of their employees. It is also unacceptable to threaten employees with termination should they report such issues to MOM.”
Based on this, Mr Low said that he had spoken to some responsible employers and they said that employees now think that the payments from JSS are their own right.
In fact, he said that some of them think that with the JSS payouts, companies should not be allowed to impose other staff cost management measures.
Under the JSS, the Government said that it will subsidise 75 percent of the first S$4,600 of gross monthly wages for 1.9 million employees, and it will be extended through May. If that’s not all, the Government also offers a foreign worker levy rebate of S$750 for each S Pass or worker permit holder employed as of 1 May this year.
In reference to this, Mr Low said that although JSS may help employees, it still adds burden to employers as they have to bear the balance of employees’ salaries, including employer’s contributions to the Central Provident Fund, as well as other operating expenses.
“A company with zero or meagre income during this critical period will not survive after a few months if no further cost cutting is allowed. Under these circumstances, it will be tempting for the company to think of retrenchment or even cease operations, Mr Low said.
He added, “Our understanding of the JSS when Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat announced the Resilience and Solidarity budgets is for employers to use the funds to better navigate the crisis, while doing their best to keep employees hired. And many responsible employers have been striving to do this.”
As such, Mr Low said that in order for JSS to be successful, both employers and employees have to share the responsibility so a more sustainable outcome can be attained.