TSMP Law Corporation Head of Employment & Labour Ian Lim was quoted in a news story by CNA published on 31 October 2019 on unfair clauses in employment contracts. He said that unfair employment contracts affect not just vulnerable workers, such as those earning lower wages, but the professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) as well. For the former, these tend to be illegal salary deductions and clauses that exclude them from overtime pay. Construction is one industry that has seen more low-wage workers, usually foreigners, falling victim to such unfair clauses.
For the PMETs, contractual disputes tend to involve excessive “non-compete” or restraint of trade clauses. These typically involve non-solicitation clauses that seek to stop a worker from soliciting clients or staff away from a former employer. Non-compete clauses prevent people from working in the same industry for a certain period of time. One excessive example is a contract that had a non-solicitation and non-poaching clause lasting five years, as well as a two-year non-compete clause. There is currently “no bright-line test to determine reasonableness” of these clauses given the current lack of specific guidelines in this area.
He added that more can also be done to protect migrant workers whose main recourse is to seek pro-bono help through charity help groups that have limited resources.