Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Government to clamp down on errant bosses

The Government has tightened its policies on the hiring of foreign manpower, with key changes to the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act passed in Parliament yesterday.

The changes will give the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) more teeth to act against errant employers and foreign workers, as well as syndicates that have set up increasingly complex sham operations to illegally bring in and supply foreign workers.

The amendments will come into effect by the end of the year.

Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin noted that, while most employers are responsible, there are some who seek to get around the work- pass framework for foreigners.

He said: "The changes will ensure that employers pay the true costs of hiring foreign workers and create a level playing field for law-abiding employers. They also seek to stem the worst abuses against foreign workers."

Mr Tan noted that some errant employers who have been debarred resort to applying for work passes under other people's names, in order to continue using foreign manpower.

To prevent the use of such tactics, associates of the debarred employer may be debarred as well when the changes kick in.

Employers' scope of responsibilities may also be broadened, if necessary, with the imposing of pre- and post-employment conditions so that foreign workers can be better protected.

For example, employers might have to ensure that the In-Principle Approval letter stating employment terms is sent to a foreign worker in his native language before he leaves his country.

This reduces reliance on unscrupulous middlemen.

MOM will also have greater powers to investigate cases, including the power to enter and inspect premises by force, such as when there is reasonable belief of a breach of the manpower regulations.

One key change will also make a distinction between administrative infringements and criminal offences when breaches occur. Breaches are currently classified as criminal.

The change means that there would be fewer cases heard in court, so offences can be dealt with faster.

Still, steps will be taken to ensure that penalties for administrative infringements are severe and in line with the offences committed.

Commissioners for Foreign Manpower will look into administrative infringements. They can impose administrative financial penalties of up to S$20,000, and debar employers from applying for and renewing work passes.

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