Know Your Rights: 4 Singapore Employment Practices Graduates Should Know

Understanding your employment rights will help you make a more informed decision when applying for your first job and reviewing your job offer.
Carmen Teh
Writer, gradsingapore

It’s not easy being a graduate jobseeker. You don’t know what to expect because you’ve never applied for a full-time job before. What’s especially daunting is that you don’t know if the company you are applying to is playing by the book when dealing with your job application and offer.

As a graduate looking for a job for the first time, you need to know that there are recruitment practices that all employers in Singapore must adhere to. There are frameworks and rules in place to ensure that employers are hiring in a fair and non-discriminatory manner as outlined by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and the Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices (TAFEP).

Here are four important details you need to know about before applying for a job with any employer in Singapore.

1. Job application forms should only ask you questions that are related to the job on offer

One easy way to find out whether a question on the job application form is fair is by asking yourself, “Is this information relevant to the job?”

Questions on job application forms should only ask about your skills, qualifications and experience which should be the only criteria you are evaluated on when it comes to whether or not you are the right candidate for the job. This is to make sure that you are assessed fairly and based on merit.

Red flags you should look out for when you are filling out job application forms include questions about age, date of birth, gender, race, marital status or disability. They should not be requested in your job application or résumé. The only time where it is appropriate for your prospective employer to ask for such information is at the point of an official job offer, typically for on-boarding purposes.

2. Job interviews should be conducted in a fair and unbiased manner

Similar to job application forms, the questions asked by your job interviewers should be relevant to the job. Employers should not ask sensitive questions or make non-job related comments. If they happen to ask personal questions that may seem discriminatory, you may ask for the interviewer’s reason for asking such questions (tactfully, of course!).

If their explanation is job-related, you may answer the question. For instance, some interviewers may ask about your religious practices because there are certain ones that the employer cannot accommodate because of operational demands of the job on offer. In cases like this, personal questions are not considered inappropriate since it is relevant to the job.

However, these questions should be asked with sensitivity and reasons should be explained clearly. If your interviewers seem to laugh it off when you ask them their reason for requesting your personal information, or avoid explaining it to you clearly, you can simply choose not to answer. You may respond by saying, “With all due respect, I don’t see the relevance of this information to the job on offer. As such, I will not answer this question and I hope you understand.”

3. Your contract of service should have the key employment terms, conditions and clauses

Got offered the job? Great! Now it’s time to review your employment contract. Your employment contract, or contract of service is defined to be an agreement in which an employer agrees to hire an individual as employee and the individual agrees to serve the employer as an employee. One key thing to note is that this agreement (together with the terms and conditions) should be in writing.

You should receive your key employment terms (KETs) within 14 days from the start of your employment. According to the MoM, these are the key items that employers must include in their KETs:

  1. Full name of employer
  2. Full name of employee
  3. Job title, main duties and responsibilities
  4. Start date of employment
  5. Duration of employment (if contract is fixed-term)
  6. Working arrangements (e.g. daily working hours, number of working days per week)
  7. Salary period
  8. Basic salary
  9. Fixed allowances
  10. Fixed deductions
  11. Overtime payment period and overtime rate of pay (if applicable)
  12. Other salary-related items (e.g. incentives, such as commission and bonuses)
  13. Type of leaves (e.g. annual leave, medical leave, maternity leave)
  14. Other medical benefits
  15. Probation period
  16. Notice period

4. Your hours of work should be regulated according to the Employment Act

As mentioned above, your contractual working hours should be stated in the contract of service. However, before you sign the contract, there are a few things you should know about the conditions of your working hours that you are obliged to commit to according to the Employment Act:

  • Generally, you are not required to work more than 6 consecutive hours without a break. Should the nature of the work require you to work for up to 8 hours in a row, you are entitled to a break of at least 45 minutes to have your meal.     
  • As an employee, you are not permitted to work for more than 12 hours a day. Your employer can only allow you to do so in the case of an accident or a threat of an accident; urgent work that if not done will affect lives, national defence or security; necessary work to be done at a plant or machinery; as well as an interruption of work that was impossible to anticipate.
  • Employers must provide at least one rest day per week. Your employer cannot make you work on a rest day, unless under special circumstances.

Typically, normal contractual working hours can go up to 9 hours a day or 44 hours a week if you work 5 days or less a week. If you work more than 5 days a week, your work hours can only go up to 8 hours a day or 44 hours a week.

If you find that the employer is conducting any discriminatory practices during your job application as well as in the duration of your employment, you can take action.

Try to get a second opinion and also refer to MOM’s and TAFEP’s guidelines to determine whether the employer has crossed the line. If you are absolutely sure that a violation occurred, you can file a report to MOM, and you can do so anonymously.