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The Employment Act

Hi, the topic today that I will be covering is the Employment Act. I aim to cover the following today:

  1. A brief history of the Employment Act

  2. Who is covered and not covered under the Employment Act

  3. Definition of types of employees

  4. Employment of young persons under the Employment Act

A brief history of the Employment Act

The Employment Act came into effect on 15 August 1968, and it aimed to provide for the basic terms and conditions at work for employees covered by the Employment Act. It also abolished certain discriminatory practices, standardised the pay structure and protected industries and businesses against excessive retrenchment benefits.

During the time, the government saw a need to accelerate economic growth by expanding various sectors such as manufacturing, tourism and shipping. They knew that a steady flow of foreign investment into Singapore is required for such expansion. As such, they needed a way to boost the country's image as an attractive destination for foreign investment. To do so, a stable economic and labour market is required to maintain that attractiveness; nobody would want to do business in an environment where you have no idea what is going to happen next. Thus, the government has since sought to update and repeal outdated legislations and the results are what you see today.

Who is covered and not covered under the Employment Act

In a nutshell, any employee with a contract of service with an employer is covered under the Employment Act. This includes foreign and local employees, as well as part-timers, temporary employees or those on contract basis.

There are excepts to those that are excluded from the Employment Act. These groups include seafarers, domestic workers and civil servants or statutory employees. These groups of employees are covered under other Acts due to the special nature of their employment status.

Definition of types of employees


  1. A workman is an employee (local or foreign) whose job mainly involves manual labour. This includes skilled labour such as artisans and apprentices or workers employed to drive or operate mechanically propelled vehicles.

  2. Any persons that supervises manual workers but also performs manual work more than half their working time is also included in the same category.

  3. Any persons that has a job specified in the First Schedule of the Employment Act; some examples are cleaners, bus operators, construction workers, bus inspectors and so on.

  4. Any persons declared by the Minister to be workman in the Gazette.

Managers and Executives

  1. Generally, managers and executives are employees with supervisory functions or executive powers.

  2. They may be able to influence or make decisions on behalf of the company on issues such as recruitment, performance assessment, company strategies and so on.

  3. They also include professionals with tertiary education and/or specialised knowledge and skills. Some examples are lawyers, accounts, dentists and doctors.

Employment of young persons under the Employment Act

Under the Employment Act, there are certain provisions for businesses to legally employ children or young persons over the age of not less than 13.

  1. Children or young persons aged under 13 - cannot work in any capacity.

  2. Children or young persons aged 13 to less than 15 - only light duties in a non-industrial setting. In an industrial setting they are not allowed to work unless they are working for family members.

  3. Children or young persons aged 15 to less than 16 - they are allowed to work in non-industrial setting. If they are to be employed to work in an industrial setting, employers must notify Ministry of Manpower and submit a medical report.

  4. The type of work that they can do is governed by Part VIII of the Employment Act and the Employment of Children and Young Persons Regulations.

Okay, that's it for today. I hope you have found this brief explanation of the Employment Act useful. Feel free to ask any questions in the comments and share your thoughts.


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