Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2), a non-profit organisation in Singapore dedicated to improving conditions for low-wage migrant workers, has recently published an article raising concerns about the current rules on rest day pay in Singapore.
The article argues that the system is open to abuse and could potentially be used to exploit low-wage workers.
The rules for rest day pay in Singapore are set out in the Employment Act (Chapter 91), which states that low-wage employees are entitled to one day off per week.
If employees work on their rest day, they are due rest day pay. However, the rate of pay for rest day work depends on whether the employer or the employee requests the work be done.
If an employer requests the rest day work, the employee earns double the regular hourly wage (a double rate of pay), as stated in Section 37(3) of the Employment Act. If an employee requests the rest day work, the employee earns a single hourly wage (a single rate of pay), as stated in Section 37(2) of the Employment Act.
TWC2 argues that this system creates an opportunity for employers to manipulate the situation and pressure employees into working on their rest days.
The article highlights the disparity in pay between employees and employers when rest day work is requested, suggesting that this gives employers an incentive to claim that all rest day work is at the employee’s request.
This is particularly concerning given that determining who requested rest day work is difficult, as employer-employee communications often happen verbally, and there is no written agreement.
In addition, TWC2 argues that the current system is unethical, given that it allows employers to take advantage of employees’ financial precarity.
Low-wage migrant workers, who have often paid high recruitment fees to work in Singapore and cannot change employers without their previous employer’s consent, may feel obligated to agree to working on a rest day to bolster their meager salaries.
In TWC’s recent survey of nearly 1,800 workers, 39.4% of respondents said they are paid only their basic (single) rate for work on their rest day. And of the 39.4% who are only paid the single rate, nearly half of them said it was the boss who asked them to work.
The organisation argues that it is not fair to allow employers to exploit this situation, and that rest day work should be paid at a uniform double rate.
TWC2 suggests that the Employment Act should be revised to create a uniform rate of pay for rest day work, regardless of whether the employee or employer requested the work.
This, according to TWC2, would prevent potential avenues for the exploitation of employees in Singapore and ensure that low-wage workers are protected from unfair treatment in the workplace.