Low ‘misclassification’ of PMETs: Really?


How many of the 791,900 employed residents with gross monthly income less than $2,500, are PMETs?

I refer to the Ministry of Manpower’s (MOM) reply “Incidence of misclassification of employees low: MOM” (Straits Times Forum, Jul 3) to the letters by Mr Cheng Choon Fei (Tactics to avoid paying workers overtime are deceitful; June 23) and Mr Tan Kar Quan (Overtime pay tied to salary, less to job title; June 27).

It states that “Under our employment laws, an employee is entitled to overtime pay when two key criteria are met.

First, he must not be employed in a managerial or executive position. Second, his basic pay must be $4,500 or less if he is a workman or $2,500 or less if he is a non-workman.

If the employee is statutorily entitled to overtime pay, the rate payable must be at least 11/2 times his hourly basic rate of pay if the overtime work is required by the employer. Overtime payment cannot be substituted with time off.

The Ministry of Manpower takes a serious view of employers who misclassify employees in order to avoid their statutory obligations, and will take stern action against such errant employers.”

As to “The incidence of misclassification has been consistently low in relation to other complaints.

Last year, the Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management (TADM) received about 50 claims from workers who felt that they had been wrongly classified as a manager or executive and unlawfully denied statutory entitlements such as overtime pay.

This constituted less than 1 per cent of all cases received by TADM” – this ‘conclusion’ may be flawed, as most affected employees may be reluctant to complain to TADM, as it may affect their future salary increase, promotion, continuing employement, etc.

With regard to “In handling such misclassification cases, the employee’s job title is not a relevant factor.

Rather, each case is assessed individually based on the specific scope of the job, such as the level of authority and decision-making powers in the management of business functions, recruitment, discipline, termination of employment and staff performance and reward.

In about 90 per cent of the 50 claims last year, MOM/TADM found the worker’s complaint to be substantiated and ordered the employers to make due compensation” – how many of the employers were penalised and what were the penalties?

Where is the deterrent if as it would appear from the subject reply – the employers were only ordered “to make due compensation”, but were not penalised?

In respect of “Employees who have been improperly classified as a manager or executive should come forward to TADM as soon as possible to allow a proper assessment to be made” – according to the article “MOM warns employers not to mis-label staff as execs, managers to avoid paying them benefits like overtime” – “It is a situation labour MP Patrick Tay had highlighted in a blog post on June 21, saying some bosses inflate an employee’s job title to avoid paying overtime to them.

He said an estimated 30,000 workers in Singapore are classified as professionals, managers and executives (PME’s), but earn below $2,500 a month”.

So, how many of the 791,900 employed residents with gross monthly income (including employee CPF contribution) less than $2,500, according to the Yearbook of Manpower Statistics 2017, are PMETs?

So, a primary contributing factor to so many low-pay PMET’s maybe our labour policies which arguably, may mean that the labour movement may have failed to fight for our worker’s rights.

Leong Sze Hian



About the Author

Leong Sze Hian has served as the president of 4 professional bodies, honorary consul of 2 countries, an alumnus of Harvard University, authored 4 books, quoted over 1500 times in the media , has been a radio talkshow host, a newspaper daily columnist, Wharton Fellow, SEACeM Fellow, columnist for theonlinecitizen and Malaysiakini, executive producer of Ilo Ilo (40 international awards), Hotel Mumbai (associate producer), invited to speak more than 200 times in about 40 countries, CIFA advisory board member, founding advisor to the Financial Planning Associations of 2 countries. He has 3 Masters, 2 Bachelors degrees and 13 professional  qualifications.