Singapore’s Manpower Minister Josephine Teo revealed in Parliament on Tuesday (2 February) that about 190 employers were caught underpaying their foreign workers per year between 2015 and 2019.
She said this in response to questions raised by Progress Singapore Party (PSP)’s NCMP Leong Mun Wai and Workers’ Party (WP)’s MP Muhamad Faisal Abdul Manap on the number of companies underpaying their employees and the main methods of effecting such underpayments.
Between the year 2010 and 2014, an average of 60 employers per year were detected to be underpaying their foreign workers’ wages.
Commenting on the increased number of cases between 2015 and 2019, the Manpower Minister said in her written answer that it was a result of “improved detection capabilities” as well as education efforts to encourage foreigners to report on salary irregularities.
“Most cases did not involve employment agencies. Nonetheless, over the same 10-year period, enforcement action was taken against six licensed employment agencies,” Mrs Teo noted.
In certain cases, employers underpay their foreign staff by simply paying them a lower salary.
She added, “Some tried to avoid leaving any paper trail by crediting full declared salaries to the foreign employees and requiring the employees to return a portion back to them in the form of electronic transfer or in cash.”
In January this year, local cupcake chain Twelve Cupcakes was slapped with a fine of S$119,500 for underpaying seven of its employees, amounting to about S$114,000 between December 2016 and November 2018.
According to the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act, it is an offence if bosses do not pay their foreign staff in accordance to their contractual fixed monthly salaries, or inflate foreign employees’ salaries with no intention to pay them the amount declared to the MOM.
“There is no excuse for underpayment of any employee, foreign or local. MOM will continue to take strong surveillance and enforcement action against errant employers and any other parties who abetted the offences,” said Mrs Teo.