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Singapore imposes harsher penalties for employers in breach of local worker recruitment laws

By 17 January, 2020February 23rd, 2020No Comments4 min read

After recent changes to the Fair Work Consideration Framework (FCF), from 1 January 2020 employers with foreign workers who are deemed guilty of workplace discrimination face stricter penalties and higher fines.

What does this mean for companies with foreign workers?

Employers making applications for Employment Pass applications are required to advertise positions paying below SGD 15,000 per month on the national Jobs Bank for at least 14 days prior to applying for an Employment Pass.

The purpose of this is that for all assignments, including for temporary roles, employers must ensure that local applicants are fairly considered for the role before approving the foreign employee’s relocation. Employers are required to make a  declaration to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) to that effect.

If the MOM deems that the Employment Pass applicant has been pre-selected and in breach of the FCF, then penalties may apply.

What are the penalties for breach?

Penalties can include:

  1. Employment Pass bars and renewal bar: Employers found guilty of workplace discrimination will not be allowed to obtain new work passes for up to 24 months (up from the previous limit of up to six months), and will not be allowed to renew a work pass during the penalty period (where in the past, renewals were not barred).
  2. Prosecution: Employers and key personnel who make false declarations that they have considered all candidates fairly will also now be prosecuted in court. Those found guilty of false declaration under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act may be jailed for up to two years, fined up to SGD 20,000, or both.

Practically, what’s the risk?

As its immigration system continues to grow, the Singaporean authorities are increasingly likely to enforce compliance. A recent article by the Straits Times confirmed that:[1]

  1. a logistics firm has become the first company to be charged in court on 14 January 2020 with making a false declaration after changes to the FCF;
  2. a solar equipment manufacturer was barred from hiring new foreign workers or renewing existing work passes for 24 months after it was found to have pre-selected an employment pass applicant and failed to interview local applicants who had responded to its Jobs Bank advertisement for a process engineer position;
  3. an employment agency was debarred from hiring new foreign workers or renewing existing work passes for 12 months for having discriminatory hiring practices.
  4. a general medicine and surgery services firm has been debarred from hiring new foreign workers or renewing work passes for 12 months after it put out a job advertisement with critical missing information.
  5. an information and communications technology firm was barred from hiring new foreign workers or renewing employment passes for 12 months after it was found to have pre-selected an employment pass applicant before a job advertisement for the position as placed on the Jobs Bank.

As Singapore’s immigration laws follow the increasingly stringent global trend, it is imperative that employers fairly consider local applicants to ensure they are provided equal opportunities during the recruitment process.

Any questions?

If you seek further information about how this impacts your Singapore immigration work flow, or general questions about Singaporean immigration, please email our general query inbox at [email protected] or call us on +61 3 9016 0484.



Mihan Hannan

Author Mihan Hannan

Formerly a Senior Associate in one of Australia’s most reputable immigration litigation and review practices, Mihan is solutions focused and well versed in all aspects of Australian immigration law. Mihan also has a subscription addiction, being obsessed with tools to improve the firms immigration work flow.

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