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Managing Employees (4 of 6): Handling Employee Disputes

The Employment Act and Industrial Relations Act were put in place to ensure that all disputes at the workplace are settled as peacefully as possible.

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Published by Enterprise Singapore
on 14 Oct 2019

When Do Disputes Happen

  • Disputes normally arise over:
    • failure to pay salary
    • demand for higher pay
    • demand for better working conditions
    • unfair dismissal of an employee


What You Must Do

  • Always attempt to settle disputes through open discussions and negotiations. Good human resource practices can help to keep nasty disputes to a minimum.
  • Treat all your staff fairly. Be consistent. Don't favour any employee and make sure you do not discriminate against anyone either.
  • Discuss with your employee as soon as you are aware of any issue. Discussing problems early may prevent them from escalating.


Actions Employees May Take Against You

  • Your employee may sue you for breach of contract.
  • If your employee is covered under the Employment Act, he/she can lodge a complaint with the Labour Relations and Workplaces Division, Ministry of Manpower.
    • The Labour Relations and Workplaces Division will investigate the complaint. The Commissioner may dismiss the claim or order you to pay a sum of money to the employee.
    • The Commissioner may also refer the matter to the Labour Court to resolve the dispute.
  • If your employees are part of a trade union, they may request the trade union to represent and negotiate on their behalf.
    • Trade unions are empowered under the Trade Unions Act to negotiate on behalf of their members.
    • Trade unions cannot challenge the employer's decision to:
      • transfer an employee within an organisation
      • promote any employee
      • terminate employees due to redundancy
      • retrench employees
      • employ any person he wishes to fill vacancies
      • assign duties to an employee in line with his/her employment terms
    • When you reach an agreement with trade unions, it is known as a "collective agreement".
    • The collective agreement, once certified by the Industrial Arbitration Court, is binding on all parties.
    • If you fail to reach to an agreement, the Commissioner of Labour may intervene and appoint conciliation officers to resolve the matter.
    • If still no agreement can be reached, the matter can be taken to the Industrial Arbitration Court by either party.

See:   Labour Relations and Workplaces Division

The Role of Trade Unions


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Last Modified Date: 14 Oct 2019