As of 1st April 2019, a new set of guidelines was effected after changes to the Employment Act, which now allows all employees to file claims against their employers for wrongful dismissal. Previously, this protection applied only to those earning up to $4,500 a month.
These new guidelines published on Monday (April 1) set out illustrations of wrongful dismissal that included discrimination, avoiding benefits payment, punishing an employee for exercising an employment right, and false reasons.
After the monthly salary cap of $4,500 was removed, more managers and executives, namely PMETs, are now covered under the core provisions of the law, which include statutory protection against wrongful dismissal. This is among changes that take effect on Monday, after being passed in Parliament in November 2018.
With the new changes, the Employment Claims Tribunal (ECT) will now hear wrongful dismissal claims, instead of the MOM. However, to bring a claim before the ECT, parties must first register their claims at the Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management (TADM) for mediation. Mediation at TADM is compulsory. Only disputes which remain unresolved after mediation at TADM may be referred to the ECT. Employees covered under the Employment Act can file wrongful dismissal claims at the tribunal from 15th April if mediation is unsuccessful.
The new guidelines provide clarity to employees on the grounds on which they can appeal if they feel that they have been wrongfully dismissed.
So, what is a dismissal?
Dismissal means that an employer has terminated an employee's contract of service. It may be with or without notice, and on grounds of misconduct or not. It also includes situations where an employee resigns involuntarily.
Valid reasons for dismissal include:
- Misconduct, e.g. employer establishes that an employee was engaged in dishonest or disorderly conduct at work.
- Poor performance, e.g. employee didn't perform his or her job according to the required standards.
- Redundancy, e.g. employee's job scope changed and the old job scope no longer exists.
Then, what constitutes a wrongful dismissal?
Wrongful dismissal happens when an employee was dismissed without just or sufficient cause.
Wrongful dismissals include:
- Dismissal on discriminatory grounds based on age, race, gender, religion, marital status and family responsibilities or disability.
- Dismissal to deprive an employee of benefits or entitlements, e.g. to deprive an employee of her maternity benefits.
- Dismissal to punish an employee for exercising an employment right, e.g. dismissing an employee after employee submitted a mediation request to TADM for salary-related claims.
Employers and employees should refer to the Tripartite Guidelines on Wrongful Dismissal for more information on what is a wrongful dismissal.