The Law of Dismissal of Employees in Singapore (including grievance handling and discipline)



As of 1 April 2014, professionals, managers and executives ( PMEs ) earning a basic salary of not more than $4,500 are now covered under the Employment Act and may seek redress against wrongful and unfair dismissal by their employers with the Ministry of Manpower. The treatment of this category of employee would now be quite similar to the rank and file employees who are covered under the Employment Act. This is notwithstanding that there is also another category of common law employee ( earning above a basic salary of $4500 ) in which human resource practitioners would similarly need to manage as if they are wrongfully and unfairly dismiss, the recourse is through the civil courts.

In view of the above, there are basically 3 categories of employees in Singapore. The first being the non-executive level, second the PMEs earning a monthly basic salary of up to $4,500 and the third category where PMEs ( also known as common law employee ). The treatment of dismissing whether with notice or without notice for the 3 categories of employees differ quite greatly. However, as announced by the Minister of Manpower, Mr Lim Swee Say that the Employment Act will be amended with effect 1 April 2019 to cover all employees and this means that they will be protected from wrongful and unfair dismissal too. Therefore, what should HR practitioners do in view of the forthcoming changes. Can HR practitioners use the same approach to dismissing the employee?

Also, it is important to manage employee separation with care regardless of whether the employee is leaving because of resignation, redundancy, retirement, death, frustration, the expiry of contract or dismissal. Firstly, it minimises the risk of legal problems and secondly, it protects the reputation of both the business and the employer. Employees who leave employment on a pleasant note are more likely to recommend their previous employer thus building a branding of the employer of choice.

Employers should use fair procedures when terminating employees as replacing employees is expensive and claims for unfair or unlawful dismissal can be costly and time-consuming to defend. Also, what may be seen as an unfair process can affect workplace morale.  An insufficient appreciation of the difference between a termination of an employment contract and a dismissal of an employee from his employment is also contributing to this escalation as this is deducible from the nature of claims filed and their chances of success at the end of most litigation.

At the end this workshop, delegates can be assured that they will be more competent in their understanding of grievance and disciplinary handling, as well as the dismissal of an employee in Singapore.

Course Outline:

A competent HR practitioner must have the knowledge and skills in the following:

1. Grievance-Handling

• What constitutes a misconduct.
• Understanding grievances of employees.
• Differences between grievances, complaints and whistle-blowing.
• Consequences of mishandling grievances.
• Handling grievance effectively.
• Company’s grievance-handling procedure.

2. Misconduct

• What constitutes a misconduct.
• Minor and major misconduct.
• Policy on code of conduct.
• Whether misconduct constitutes a breach of contract.
• Disobedience.
• Negligence or incompetence.
• Committing criminal offences.

3. Discipline and Disciplinary Action:

• Definition of discipline.
• The need to discipline.
• Progressive discipline.
• Company’s code of conduct.

4. Modes of Cessation of employment contract

• Performance (Retirement).
• Agreement (termination clause, retrenchment, expiry of fixed term contract ).
• Repudiatory breach ( misconduct, fail probation, bankruptcy).
• Frustration ( rest in peace ).
• Remedies for wrongful dismissal.
• Reinstatement or pay for damages.

5. “Dismissal”

• Employee as defined in section 2 ( statutory and common law ) of Employment Act.
• Definition of dismissal.
• Definition of statutory and common law ( PME ) employee.
• Contract of service versus contract for service.
• Differences in dismissal between statutory and common law employees ( those earning below a basic salary of $4500 and those above a basic salary of $4500 ).
• Differences between dismissal with notice and dismissal without notice.

6. The test to be applied for Misconduct

• Implied terms.
• Express terms.
• Duty of the employer
• Duty of the employee
• Illustration of misconduct
• Dismissal is the employer’s prerogative.

7. Unsatisfactory work performance

• Employment contract undermine by poor work performance.
• Misconduct to be differentiated from poor work performance.
• Evidence of shortcomings.
• Process for dismissal for poor work performance.
• Bearing on Retirement and Reemployment Act.

8. Employee committing criminal offence at the workplace/outside the workplace

• Solutions to an employer’s dilemma over employee who committed criminal offence.
• Standard of proof btw required in judicial court and disciplinary inquiry.
• Nexus test to be applied on employee’s job.
• Criminal offence versus breach of company’s rules and regulations.
• Private conduct versus non-private conduct.
• Doctrine of autrefois acquit and autrefois convict.
• The need for disciplinary inquiry.
• How to handle employee released on police’s or court’s bail

9. Suspension, investigation and disciplinary inquiry

• Disciplinary inquiry process with trade union / without trade union.
• Differentiation between statutory and common law employee.
• Suspension with pay or without pay and duration of suspension.
• Investigation to complaint.
• Conducting the disciplinary inquiry.
• Framing disciplinary charges.
• Disciplinary inquiry hearing procedure.
• Recognition of medical certificate from private versus public clinic doctors in and outside Singapore.
• Termination whilst on hospitalisation leave.
• Eligibility of public holidays for General Election and Presidential Election.


Lecture and case studies.

Who should attend?

Human Resource practitioners, Industrial Relations practitioners, lawyers, in-house legal counsels, line managers, executives and any other persons keen to acquire a good understanding of the law of dismissal of employees in Singapore.

Workshop Registration

Please click here to register.