Jurisdiction - Singapore
Singapore – Proposed Amendments To Industrial Relations Act.

29 November, 2013


Legal News & Analysis – Asia Pacific – Singapore – Labour & Employment




In March 2013, an announcement of proposed amendments to the Employment Act (Cap. 91) of Singapore was made by Acting Minister for Manpower Tan Chuan-Jin. Most of these have since been incorporated in the Employment, Parental Leave and Other Measures Bill. In line with those proposed amendments, it was also mentioned that the Industrial Relations Act (Cap. 136) of Singapore (“IRA“) should be updated to reflect the changing profile of the workforce in Singapore and the workplace norms and culture. This change is most evident in the growing proportion of professionals, managers and executives (“PMEs”) in the workforce.


A Tripartite Workgroup comprising the Ministry of Manpower, the Singapore National Employers Federation and the National Trades Union Congress (“Workgroup“) was set up to study the changes. The Workgroup has made certain recommendations in relation to the representation of PMEs by rank-and-file (“R&F“) unions. These recommendations form the basis of a public consultation (“Consultation“) now being held to propose amendments to the IRA. The Consultation closes on 21 November 2013.


Consultation Proposals


Currently, R&F unions are allowed to represent PMEs for certain industrial matters on an individual basis (referred to in the IRA as “limited representation“). These include disputes relating to dismissal without just cause or excuse, breach of contract of employment, retrenchment benefits, or court proceedings arising from dismissal or injury on account of industrial action. The employer is entitled to object to such limited representation if the employee is employed in a senior management position or holds substantial managerial responsibilities.


The Workgroup proposes that R&F unions should be allowed to represent PMEs collectively, not just on an individual basis. It also proposes to widen the scope for limited representation.


Collective Representation


The Workgroup recommends that senior management and certain categories of executives who hold substantial managerial responsibilities should continue to be excluded from collective representation. This is to address the concerns of employers in relation to conflict of interest and to preserve management effectiveness.


It is proposed that collective representation for PMEs should cover all industrial matters, but exclude areas such as employee promotion, transfer, employment, termination, dismissal and assignment of duties, which should remain the prerogative of employers. Although this proposal is quite wide in its scope, the Workgroup acknowledges that in practice, PMEs would only resort to collective representation in situations where they find themselves in a similar situation with the same issue or dispute as others in the same organization.


Limited Individual Representation


As not all PMEs will see the need for collective representation, it is proposed that limited representation on an individual basis should continue to be provided as an option for PMEs.

As re-employment is a common employment issue that lends itself to individual representation, since factors such as individual performance and medical fitness have to be taken into account, the Workgroup proposes that R&F unions may represent their PMEs on an individual basis when re-employment disputes arise.




Please click here to refer to the documents issued in connection with the Consultation exercise.


Rajah & Tann


For further information, please contact:


Kala Anandarajah, Partner, Rajah & Tann 

[email protected]


Abdul Jabbar, Partner, Rajah & Tann

[email protected]


Lim Wee Hann, Partner, Rajah & Tann 

[email protected]


Desmond Wee, Partner, Rajah & Tann 

[email protected]


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