Follow us

All You Need To Know About Singapore’s Employment Law in 5 Minutes

October 27, 2016

Generally speaking, Singapore is a relatively easy place to hire and fire employees.

Legislation governing labour relations and employment-related matters is generally regarded as being very pro-business and avoids placing too many burdens on employers. Generally, your Employment Agreement is the law, and there are very few restrictions to the conditions to which your may bind your employee in your Employment Agreement.

Employers’ Minimum Legal Obligations

Having said that, Singapore’s Employment Act does provide some additional protections to employees who meet certain criteria, most notably those earning a monthly basic salary of S$4,500 or below. This category of employees is fully covered by the Employment Act and hence must receive minimum (and not less favourable) conditions offered by the Employment Act, which include things like paid public holidays and overtime pay.

There are also basic underlying legal obligations that cannot be contracted out, whether or not an employee is covered by the Employment Act. These include contributions to an employee’s Central Provident Fund (CPF) (for Singaporean citizens and permanent residents) and maternity leave (the minimum length of which varies depending on whether or not the employee’s baby is a citizen of Singapore).

There are also some fairly basic administrative requirements such as maintaining a record of employees and their salaries and deductions, i.e. payroll, and reporting workplace accidents.

Also read: Amendments to the Employment Act: What it means for your business

As employment laws vary from country to country, it is advisable that you consult a lawyer to ensure you are compliant with local Employment Act. This can sometimes be quick and inexpensive given limited state intervention into the employer-employee relationship.

Learn more about Employment Law in Singapore:

Download free eBook: The New Hire

Employing foreigners

Hiring foreigners will attract more administrative hassle than hiring Singaporeans and permanent residents. A company who wishes to hire foreign employees needs to hire a certain number of Singaporean citizens or permanent residents into the company, in any capacity. The local to foreigner employee ratio for each employer varies depending on the industry you’re in and, in some cases, the nationality of the potential foreign hire in question and these quotas are subject to change.

You should check the Ministry of Manpower’s (MOM) website to find out the prevailing quota for your industry. The type of visa required will depend mainly on your employee’s level of salary.

Companies must also note the Fair Consideration Framework (FCF) introduced in 2014 that requires you to first advertise the job vacancy on the national Jobs Bank for at least 14 calendar days.

The Tripartite Alliance for Fair Employment Practices (TAFEP) provides guidelines for employers when advertising for jobs. In general, TAFEP discourages advertisements that indicate a preference for foreign employees over locals (although it is acceptable to express preference for a local over a foreigner is acceptable), advertisements that indicate a racial preference or advertisements that indicate a preference for a younger employee (although expressing a preference for an older employee is acceptable).

While these are guidelines are positioned as non-mandatory, the MOM has been known to refuse visa applications for companies who fail to comply.

When Things Go Wrong

Compared to many other neighbouring countries, it is relatively easy to fire employees in Singapore –there are no criteria that need to be met and no reasons that need to be given (other than if the employee is pregnant).

Practically speaking, most employees may only have recourse to informal methods of dispute resolution such as mediation at MOM or representations by their union, if any. Employees who are covered by the Employment Act may bring a complaint to the Commissioner of Labour within a certain time frame. It is even more difficult for foreign employees to successfully sue their employers as their termination also results in the cancellation of their visa; meaning that, in many cases, unless they are able to secure employment quickly, they will not be able to remain in Singapore to see through any claim against you (though it is possible to instruct for them to appoint lawyers abroad).

While employees may file a suit in court for unfair dismissal, their arguments are usually restricted by the terms of the Employment Agreement they signed. This is why it’s so important to get this right from day one, and why it is a very wise long-term investment to consult a lawyer (i) when drafting your company’s standard employment contract or (ii) to review the terms of your employment contract before you sign it (as an employee).

It is impossible to cover everything there is to know about employment law in Singapore in five minutes, but the above represents the whistle-stop tour of the most important highlights without which you shouldn’t hire your first employee. For more detailed information, check out MOM’s website.
About the Author
This a guest contribution submitted by Nadia Moynihan, Senior Associate at Kalco Law LLC.
The views expressed here are of the author’s, and Dragon Law may not necessarily subscribe to them. You, too, are invited to share your point of view! Learn more about guest blogging for Dragon Law here.

Nadia is a lawyer practicing at Kalco Law LLC in Singapore. Nadia has experience acting for corporate and private clients in a wide variety of litigation matters ranging from franchising disputes to employment litigation and a diverse range of breach of contract actions.

Supporting Parents In The Workplace

Like it or not, employees who are parents face, consciously or sub-consciously, some form of discrimination in the workplace.

Balancing a full-time career and parenting is never an easy feat. Working parents are finding it increasingly difficult to fulfil their roles both at home and in the workplace.

Related reading: Lessons of a CEO: Family

In a society where productivity is key, working parents are finding it increasingly difficult to fulfil their roles at home and in the workplace. Very often, employees are unable to find a balance between these two major responsibilities, which unfortunately leads to prioritising one over the other. This often results in undesirable outcomes, such as strained family relationships or ineffectiveness at work.

In fact, 89% of working parents surveyed by Morgan McKinley in Hong Kong stated “work” as the main reason preventing them from spending time with their children.

Source: Working Parents Infographic, Morgan McKinley (2016)

Organisations who do their part in integrating employees will retain their high-performing employees, thus creating a sustainable and flexible workplace.

So how can companies do their part to support parents at work?

 

1) Paid Parental Leave

Offering paid parental leave is fast becoming a norm amongst companies. When a new baby is born, it is crucial that parents set time aside to bond as a family. Most new parents will also need time to adjust to the new family life. Providing new parents with the flexibility of taking time off from work allows them to find a balance between their new family lives and work.

In Singapore, it is mandatory for companies to provide paid parental leave for their employees. Some companies provide supplementary parental leave on top of statutory requirements as an additional perk for employees.

Download our free eBook on Employment Law:
Singapore version   Hong Kong version

2) Exercise Flexibility

It is not at all absurd that employees with young children will require a little more flexibility when it comes to their work schedule. More often than not, childcare obligations such as illness, school holidays, and meet-the-parent sessions may come up unexpectedly and get in the way of work.

An organisation that allows for flexible-work hours will make employees feel cared-for and valued. It gives the employee the impression that the organisation takes into consideration and cares for their childcare obligations. This provides employees with a peace of mind and allows them to be fully-focused and committed on their jobs.

Related reading: 5 ways to incentivise employees without burning a hole in your pocket

3) Childcare Benefits

Some organisations provide childcare benefits as an additional perk to parents. Other pro-family workplaces even have daycare centres within the company building whereby employees can place their children there for the day!

Kids Atelier @ Trehaus – Co-working space with childcare and learning facilities
Source: 6 Mum-Friendly Co-working Spaces in Singapore, Singapore Motherhood (2016)

With children close  by their sides, new parents feel more assured and have the ability to check-in on them any time. Other organisations provide various childcare perks such as complimentary baby powder or by subsidising cost of healthcare.

As employees strive to achieve work-life balance, organisations should do their part to provide the necessary care and support to help their employees ease back into the workplace after having a child.

Does your workplace adopt pro-family practices? What policies do you have that support parents at work? We’d love to hear them – let us know in the comments below!

This a guest contribution submitted by Gpayroll. The views expressed here are of the author’s, and Dragon Law may not necessarily subscribe to them. You, too, are invited to share your point of view. Learn more about guest blogging for Dragon Law here.

About Gpayroll

Gpayroll is an easy to use, self-run online payroll service that will redefine and revolutionize the payroll industry. Its intuitive and automated system will help business owners focus on their core business without the hassle of managing payroll. Follow on Facebook

Lessons of a CEO #5

October 24, 2016

Screen Time.

My first in-transit-blog post. I’m writing it at 37,000 ft and I’m about 7 inches from my laptop. It’s Saturday evening and I’m sitting in row 28 of a busy Air Asia flight returning from a KL business trip. The lady in front is getting some economy shut eye. This has the effect of pushing the food tray so close to my stomach that to type I am forced to threaten the occupants of 28F and 28D with my tightly-wound elbows at every stroke of the keyboard. Timely then for a post on how much time is the right amount of time to spend on work? When should we stop? When are we working too much? And when does it all cease to be any more productive?

I know I work too much. My grandfather, 99 this year, a spectacular doctor but workaholic who comes from a generation when hard work wasn’t discussed (it just was). Took less than a minute of listening to my excited tales of startupdom to ask the only question that mattered to him. Was I helping my family enough with the things that matter to them? Absolutely yes was my answer. Probably not, was the truth.

My Week

As wake up calls come in all forms, it reminded me to always listen to people older than myself. They are without exception wiser than I. I wanted to know, how much am I working; and whilst I haven’t kept a work diary to be particularly scientific about this – to give a quick assessment of my working week, I’ve had a look at my calendar for last month, which was by most perspectives relatively ordinary.

My diary had 164 hours of scheduled meetings, which is give or take, about 37 hours a week. So that’s the starting point. I’m normally either in the office or ‘at work’ in some capacity from 8.30-7ish so an extra 13 or so hours that are me doing my job. A relatively healthy for this day and age – 50 hours a week.

But then comes the extras.

Travel – I usually fly a few times a month and I try to do that outside of office hours wherever possible. I’m going to add on 5 hours per week for that. It’s probably much more but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Networking – I don’t network as hard as the very hardcore at Dragon Law (who often go out 4 times a week – good grief, their stamina is incredible – kudos to you Karen and the team) but I usually will do two functions of some sort a week, so that’s another 5 hours per week.

Calls – The “Can we talk” calls. An average of one a night. That’s what I’m here for (isn’t it? – I think so, see my post on loving your team). These calls are usually about “Survive” issues either with my founding team (mainly our CTO who is frequently worried about life, the universe and the state of the US electorate), investors, or board calls will add one hour per evening. So let’s put down another 5 for that.

Weekend work – Work that can only be done at the weekends when it’s all a bit quieter. Writing my blog. Reading up on trends. Learning and improving. Not really work you might say but it’s not leisure so let’s add another 5 hours anyway!

Jees Louise – are we at 70 already? Well best keep going because the next one is the biggie.

Monitoring – what on earth could that be?! This my friends is the impact of screens on our free time. Almost incalculable in its impact on your working week. This is most likely the least productive work you do and is absolutely the most destructive of your leisure and family time. I’m calling it monitoring because it covers a multitude of work-now-routinely-invades-family time sins, made possible by the advent of our always-on world.

For me personally, this ranges from checking sales dashboards, client happiness levels; and projects, through to sending emails and whatsapps out of hours that become conversations at midnight. A culture has developed in our world, that there absolutely is no time now considered too late to send a hangout/whatsapp/line/wechat/imessage/Skype Chat/SMS/any other message that we know will beep on someone’s phone, and if I wake at 4am, well no harm in replying some more right? It is after all daylight somewhere.

 

How much time does this amazing infiltration of technology add on to our business day at Dragon Law? I don’t want to admit. I recently read a study that the average smartphone user picks up her phone 2,617 times a day. How far is yours from you right now? In your hand? Plugged into your laptop, charging because you’ve nearly run out of battery at 11am? In another room? Shame on you – run and get it now, it has probably beeped. Could be important.

Was it? No. Oh well at least you have it now.

Because we know this and because we monitor our phones and devices continuously, it has blurred our perception of when we can make demands on our colleagues, finish off discussions that should wait for the office, or sell to customers. Today we so often do business in the same mediums and with the same tools that we organise our personal lives and our personal relationships that it is increasingly impossible to separate the one from the other. But we must, because this isn’t going away. Ten years ago Facebook was a place we posted drunk photos of ourselves. Today you are painfully aware it is your future boss’ first stop on a journey of information you have readily provided. Five years ago we worried about the flashing blackberry, but a blackberry could always be lost at the weekend. Today it is our phones and our laptops and our decisions that control when we start and if we stop our working week. Only we can decide if enough is ever enough.

Daniel Walker

Read the series:
Lessons of a CEO #4: Sit down next to me
Lessons of a CEO #3: A Brief History of Thyme
Lessons of a CEO #2: Fashion Foreword
Lessons of a CEO #1: Lessons I’ve learned

Is Cyber Security About To Get An AI Takeover?

October 20, 2016

With cyber hacks up 300% since 2012, and costing the economy roughly $27bn a year, it comes as little surprise that the cyber security industry is fast becoming a highly-competitive space.

Cylance

Cylance is a startup founded in 2012 by Stuart McLure, the former global CTO for McAfee. Their innovative approach to cyber security involves the use of Artificial Intelligence to identify malicious intruders, and prevent them from getting in and joining the party.

Think: Bodyguard on the door of a prestigious club in London!

Other players in the cyber security space, Crowdstrike for example, focus on targeting the intruders once they have already broken in – akin to having a security guard who patrols in the club, constantly scanning the room for trouble.

The name of Cylance’s artificial intelligence defence system in disguise is: “System and method for internet security”. The description for US8578487 is as follows:

“A computer implemented method performed by one or more processors for preventing SQL injection attacks”.

It appears the disguise is a deliberate move by companies to fly under the radar and confuse competitors. The patent is dated November 5, 2013. The graph below illustrates Cylance’s rapid rate of innovation since it was founded:

Cylance filed as many as 18 patents between the years 2012 and 2015, indicating an innovative initiative within the business. Towards the end of 2012, a patent was granted before it was even applied for. As it turned out, Derek Soeder, Cylance’s Head of Research & Development, had applied for the patent in 2010, even before the company was founded.

Becoming an Unicorn

These are two very different (and successful) approaches to cyber security. Both companies have just completed their Series D funding, each totalling over $100 million and are part of the elitist ‘Unicorn Club’ (for startups valued at over $1 billion). Here’s a plot twist: Stuart McClure, and George Kurtz, CEO of Crowdstrike, were former partners and the best of friends.

Their joint venture, Foundstone, was acquired by McAfee in 2004 for $84m. This crowned both Stuart and George as Global CTOs for McAfee. However, in hot pursuit of a larger slice of the bulging $22bn dollar cyber security industry, combined with a differing of opinions, the two friends parted ways in 2012, and so came the birth of Cylance and Crowdstrike.

The difference in their characters filters all the way through their companies with one focusing on prevention rather than detection and visa versa. They do share one cohesion however – IP Strategy. In a world where software has historically been lightly patented, Stuart and George have ensured the fruits of their labour are well protected – a practice probably picked up from their time at the heavily patented McAfee. Protecting their innovation is undeniably a great step up the ladder but now there is the possibility to extract insight from the IP landscape that will enable them to stay ahead of the curve.

The radar map below, an excerpt from PatSnap Insights, shows each company’s technological trajectory. It is clear that their strategies are completely different, with the only shared strategic interest in ‘Market-Driven R&D’.

AI is another highly-competitive industry, and also one that is highly-patented. There is a wealth of data to unlock within this space through Intellectual Property – millions of patents to reverse engineer, thousands of licensing opportunities, hundreds of companies to form partnerships with and one market trend to stay bang on top of. Essentially, you’re given the homework of the smartest kid in class to use, and improve upon with minimal effort on your part. So why aren’t all companies using the information available to them through IP data?

Earlier this month, PatSnap held an online webinar with Donal O’Connell from Chawton Innovation Services as guest speaker. He spoke about risks associated with Intellectual Property and focused specifically on the importance for companies to be proactive rather than reactive.

After all, why would you choose to act after the horse has already bolted, when you had the choice all along to keep that horse stabled?

This a guest contribution submitted by patent analytics platform, PatSnap. The views expressed here are of the author’s, and Dragon Law may not necessarily subscribe to them. You, too, are invited to share your point of view! Learn more about guest blogging for Dragon Law here.

Contact claire@patsnap.com to better understand the benefits and insights you can derive from patent landscaping.

 

The 6 Things You Are Getting Wrong About Legal

Whether you are just starting out or have been running an established business, managing legal is a core part of it. Yet business owners often struggle to understand local legal requirements, the different legal options, and hence fail to implement prudent legal precautions that are necessary for protecting their business.

But worry not – we are just about to debunk the 6 most common misconceptions that business owners have about the law and legal services – read on:

Misconception #1: In order for a contract to be “legally-binding”, it must be drafted by a law firm

The Oxford dictionary defines contract as:

A written or spoken agreement, especially one concerning employment, sales, or tenancy, that is intended to be enforceable by law. 

Yet, many continue to have the wrong idea that contracts prepared by lawyers are more “official” and hence more “legally-binding” – this is wrong because all it takes is a written or spoken agreement to form a contractual relationship.

Surely we are not advocating that you enter into verbal agreements or draft your own contracts based on templates you find online – often times you don’t know what you don’t know and hence it is important that a professional will ask you the right questions. 

Did you know that Dragon Law’s Document Builder has digitised this Q&A process, so you are prompted all the necessary legal considerations, get to draft your own contracts in a guided fashion, AND save time and money?

Try our Document Builder for free

Related reading: By the time you have to look for a lawyer, it’s probably already too late

Misconception #2: E-signatures are not recognised by law

With the advent of technology and the Internet, most communications and business transactions have moved online. Even if you are a locally-incorporated business with an office in one country, it is not uncommon that you collaborate with business partners around the world. Naturally, most communication and business negotiations take place online. Yet when it comes to signing business contracts, many business owners adopt the traditionalist view that only signatures where pen hits paper are considered valid signatures.

Did you know that e-signatures are recognised in many countries, including Hong Kong and Singapore?    Tweet this

In as early as 1998, Singapore became one of the first countries to allow the signing of documents online. This is now enforced by the Electronic Transactions Act 2010. Hong Kong soon followed and e-signing is now governed by the Electronics Transaction Ordinance (Cap 553). Both legislations bring local laws on electronic transactions in line with the United Nations Convention on the Use of Electronic Communications in International Contracts, adopted in November 2005.

E-sign, or invite others to e-sign with Dragon Law. Sign up for a no-commitment free trial here.

So, the next time you want to book a 12-hour flight to meet your business partner just to get a contract signed, think again. Having your contract signed online can save you both time and money, and allow you to manage legal more efficiently.

Learn how you can enjoy the benefits of electronic signatures:

Download free eBook: E-signatures

Misconception #3: You can only sign contracts that are based in your country

Another question that business owners often ask is: Can I sign a contract that is governed by the laws of another country? If I do so, which country’s laws are applicable to me?

International trade and business has been going on for centuries. It is common for business partners to hail from every corner of the world. Naturally, parties sign contracts under the laws of another country.

The fact that a contract is being signed in another jurisdiction where you might have no presence whatsoever is not a barrier to the validity of the contract. Rather, you should ensure you include a clause indicating which country’s laws govern the execution of the contract.

This is important as regulatory differences cross-country may influence the outcome of disputes. Factors to consider when choosing an applicable governing law include availability the of preferred dispute resolution mechanism.

Misconception #4: You only need to set up your legal agreements once

Some business owners think legal is a one-time  worry – once they get the fundamentals right when starting out, they’ll never have to think about legal again. This couldn’t be further from the truth!

It is true that you must put inn place basic legal documents when incorporating your business, such as a Founders’ Agreement or Shareholders’ Agreement (if your business is incorporated as a company). These set out the key expectations and ensures that everyone – including the founders, partners and investors – are one the same page.

But it doesn’t stop here!

If you have a website, you will need a Website Privacy Policy and a Website Terms of Use. These are minimum legal requirements even if your website doesn’t sell goods or services, as they set out the ways in which your business will manage a user’s personal data and defines the legal relationship between you and your website users respectively. If you are in eCommerce business or running an online marketplace, you will further need well-drafted contracts that help to manage expectations of your service, as well as limit third-party liabilities.

Even if you are not, there is a host of other scenarios under which you will think How can I best draft my legal documents to protect my business? Think: Raising capital, issuing and transferring shares, securing your intellectual property (IP) rights, hiring staff, working with freelancers… you get the drill.

Before you are overwhelmed by the thought of managing legal for your business, pause and think about this: The law exists to protect business entities and manage business relationships between individuals, so use it to your advantage.

Draft payment terms that will help you optimise your cash flow and stay out of debt. Offer your employees share options to incentivise and reward them for the work they have put in.

Dealing with the law makes business owners nervous, but it does not have to be this way. Think of managing legal as an ongoing process that is core to your business. Pay consistent attention to your legal needs and you will be able to secure your business interests and build a sustainable enterprise.

If you’re not sure where to start, take our FREE Legal Health Check to find out how you can better protect your business.

Misconception #5: Lawyers are the only solution to legal issues

Many business owners turn down legal help because they generally assume it will come at a high-cost. The reality is that not every legal issue requires the attention of a lawyer. Just as other industries have been disrupted with new technologies, legal is no exception.

According to a BCG report, there are three broad categories of technology solutions that have been developing in the legal industry: 1) Enablers, 2) Support-process solutions, and 3) Substantive law solutions.

Source: How Legal Technology Will Change the Business of Law (BCG)

Enabler technologies such as cloud storage tools and cyber security solutions focus on facilitating digitisation of processes.

Support-process solutions allow processes ranging from customer relationship management to accounting to be managed more efficiently.

The third category of substantive law solutions involves the automation of simple or repetitive legal tasks, such as contract drafting and contract analysis, as well as document screening.

Evidently, you don’t always need to turn to a lawyer for every kind of legal task. Existing technological tools can help make your job of managing legal easier.

Misconception #6: Online legal services & legal tech tools cannot be trusted

Surely something as important as the legal needs of your business can’t be managed online?! We hear you, and we know that your concerns are valid. The reality is that many stakeholders are turning to technological tools and online services to manage their business needs.

In fact, the world’s most established law firms are turning to technology to supplement the legal services that they provide to clients. At least 22 of the major law firms in the world have publicly acknowledged adopting artificial intelligence (AI)-driven systems, suggesting that we are moving beyond the early adoption stage into a phase of broader adoption. The fact that law firm Baker & Hostetler employed IBM’s AI Ross made headlines.

The bottom-line is this: Online legal services are not set to fully-replace the intelligent work of a lawyer; but rather complement it so that the same outcome can be achieved in a fraction of the time, cost, and complexity.

Still not convinced?

Dragon Law’s Managed Accounts let you enjoy the perks of technology, together with an expert who manages your Dragon Law account for you.