TSMP Law Corporation head of litigation and director for pro bono services Melvin Chan was quoted in a Today article published on 11 September on the difficulties foreign workers face in navigating Singapore’s legal system.
He shared that TSMP takes on every case that an NGO refers to it, and that the firm is particularly motivated to take on cases that will advance the law and have a multiplier effect.
“That way we not only help that one worker, but all the others that come after him or her,” said Mr Chan, who assists migrant workers with civil cases.
He cited a landmark case from 2018 involving Bangladeshi worker Hasan Shofiqul. Mr Hasan’s employer had inflated his job title in order to avoid paying him the overtime rates which he was entitled to.
The High Court had held that Mr Hasan, who was deployed as a site supervisor, is not an “executive” as defined under the Employment Act, and was therefore entitled to the pay rates for the rest days which he worked.
“The case brought to light the practice of mislabelling employees or giving employees titles that may not reflect the true nature of their job scope in order to circumvent employment laws and regulations,” said Mr Chan.
The case also prompted the amendments to the Employment Act in 2019, added Mr Chan, which extended the core protections in the Act to all employees regardless of their pay and title — be it managerial or executive positions.
He said the language barrier may also mean that the workers do not fully understand what they are being asked during an investigation. They may end up giving a confession even when they do not actually want to.