Foreign Worker Salary Debt : Owings and Recovery

Parliamentary Question: 6 May 2019

Ms Anthea Ong asked the Minister for Manpower of the unpaid salaries ordered by the Employment Claims Tribunal in 2017 and 2018 (a) how much was owed to foreign employees; and (b) how much has been recovered by these foreign employees to whom these salary debts were owed.

Mrs Josephine Teo: The amount of unpaid salaries ordered to foreign claimants by the Employment Claims Tribunals (ECT) since its establishment on 1 April 2017 is shown in the table below. Taking into account that the 2017 figure is not based on the full year, the value of unpaid salaries ordered to foreign claimants by the ECT has not increased in 2018.

Overall, the amount of money recovered to foreign claimants is about half of the total ordered amount.

In terms of individual outcomes, about 40% of the claimants reported that they received full payment from employers. About 40% reported partial payment, which includes all payments made by employers, insurers or the Migrant Workers Assistance Fund. 37

The average amount owed to foreign claimants who fully recovered salaries from their employers is about $3,500, significantly lower compared to that of claimants who received partial or no payment, about $7,100. The vast majority of cases of partial or no payment involve employers who are in financial difficulty.

The evidence is thus very clear, that early reporting of arrears is critical to the prospects of full recovery. This is why MOM consistently educates workers to approach the Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management early when they encounter arrears, and urges Non-Governmental Organisations that assist foreign workers to do the same.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Anthea Ong is a Nominated Member of Parliament. (A Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) is a Member of the Parliament of Singapore who is appointed by the President. They are not affiliated to any political party and do not represent any constituency. There are currently nine NMPs in Parliament.)

The multi-sector perspective that comes from her ground immersion of 12 years in different capacities helps her translate single-sector issues and ideas across boundaries without alienating any particular community/group. As an entrepreneur and with many years in business leadership, it is innate in her to discuss social issues with the intent of finding solutions, or at least of exploring possibilities. She champions mental health, diversity and inclusion — and volunteerism in Parliament.

She is also an impact entrepreneur/investor and a passionate mental health advocate, especially in workplace wellbeing. She started WorkWell Leaders Workgroup in May 2018 to bring together top leaders (CXOs, Heads of HR/CSR/D&I) of top employers in Singapore (both public and private) to share, discuss and co-create inclusive practices to promote workplace wellbeing. Anthea is also the founder of Hush TeaBar, Singapore’s 1st silent teabar and a social movement that aims to bring silence, self care and social inclusion into every workplace, every community — with a cup of tea. The Hush Experience is completely led by lovingly-trained Deaf facilitators, supported by a team of Persons with Mental Health Issues (PMHIs).

A full-time human, and part-time everything else.

A full-time human, and part-time everything else.