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11 Black And White Rules That Save Singaporean First-Jobbers From Getting “Bullied”

Employee rights every fresh graduate should know

It’s time to celebrate! After more than a decade spent in classrooms and lecture theatres, being gainfully employed for the first time is a dream come true. You’ve secured a job and the world seems your oyster – all that’s left to do is to sign on the line.

Newsflash: having a job isn’t smooth sailing. Sometimes your pay doesn’t get credited, your colleagues find you bully-able or working OT every weekend is a must. Your first job paves the way for your career so starting on the right footing is important.

To finally achieve #careergoals, you’ll need to know what you can and can’t do. Here are the most important ones so you don’t get taken advantage of:

1. Don’t be rushed into signing the contract!

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Just like textbooks back in school, the employment contract is your bible and you’ll need to study it to be a dedicated worker of the company. However, most first time employees-to-be are clueless about contractual terms – so here are three things to look out for:


Whether blue or white-collared, every occupation has its unique risks. Accidents are inevitable and insurance helps as a safety net for workers prone to danger. Look through the insurance terms and understand the disbursements.

Non-Compete Clauses

Many contracts have non-compete clauses that limit your future profession in order to safeguard company secrets. Although the courts will have the final say on whether the clauses are enforceable, reading the terms carefully before deciding if you’re ready for the commitment will minimise any legal risks.

Overtime Work Remuneration

Understand how overtime is defined in the company, and find out the limit to your remuneration if you’ll be required to work overnight or on weekends. This is the best indicator to understand the company’s work culture!

Remember, only sign the contract after you’ve fully understood every term. This is one decision you can’t CTRL+Z so don’t hesitate to ask for more time. Don’t let your potential employer pressure you into signing your contract – any reasonable boss knows that these decisions need time to be thought out carefully.

Read more about the law here.

2. You are entitled to the benefits promised from the start

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Contracts can’t lie. Only humans can! Whatever promised in your contract needs to be fulfilled. Here’s the thing about the employment contract: it’s legally binding and whatever terms that aren’t carried out can be enforced. Which leads to this important piece of advice: Keep a copy of your contract. 

Even if you’ve moved on to the next company, keep your employment contract safe at home for at least a few months – you never know when you might need it. Read how to use your contract to claim your rightful salary here.

Here’s how one guy got out of a potentially nasty situation!

Read more about the law here.

3. You reserve the right to baotoh if your company has shady practices

first job rights

Journalists and Julian Assange aren’t the only ones capable of being whistleblowers. Whether the HR team displays biases in their hiring practices or there’s something strange about the company’s finances, every employee has the right to inform your union or relevant authorities of potential malpractice.

So if your boss keeps you from using the toilet or creepily installs a camera in a cubicle *gasps*, go ahead and report it. Just be sure you’ve gathered evidence and done some research if a practice is legit – we don’t want the authorities banging down the door without a clear case.

Chances are, employers will not stand for questionable practices, but if you suspect mistreatments or underhanded procedures such as sexual harassment or workplace bullying, you can lodge a complaint here if you’re an NTUC member, or feedback to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).

4. The only times your salary can be deducted are… *drumroll*

first job rights

  • When you’re absent from work without reason
  • When you damage or lose company property or money
  • When your meals are bought using the company’s money at your request
  • When you accept accommodation, amenities and services paid by the company.
  • When you’ve asked for advances, loans or overpaid salary.
  • When contributing to your CPF.
  • When you’ve requested for contributions to approved schemes such as a company pension scheme.
  • When you’ve requested for payment to any registered co-operative society.
  • When your employer applies for your salary deduction and is approved by MOM (an inquiry will be held before deduction.)

Read more here.

5. You MUST be paid within seven days

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It’s fine for your salary to be delayed by a day or two, but after seven days, you can file a claim against your employer with Ministry Of Manpower (MOM). Still, don’t escalate it too early especially if you know your boss has a valid reason such as if he’s overseas on a business trip.

A dispute like this should be solved internally and amicably to ensure your relationship with the company doesn’t sour. Besides, you don’t want to be infamous in any industry this early in your career!

However if the company gives some lame reason why they didn’t pay you, here’s how the Labour Court helped someone get his rightful salary.

Read more on the law here.

6. You’re entitled to more work-life balance than you think

first job rights
Source: @thesmartlocalsg

Workaholics, stand aside. Those with an active social life, listen up. Rest days that you’re entitled to in your contract comprise a whole day and are set by your employers. These 24 hours are not to be disturbed unless under exceptional circumstances – such as when the company is unable to operate without your help.

Being a junior might mean facing seniors who’ll haunt you for work so be firm when needed. Being assertive about your rights is important. Bullying happens far too often at work so take steps to avoid being trapped in that situation.

Check out tips on managing workplace bullying here.

Read more here.

7. The OT you serve shouldn’t be FOC!

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Working late isn’t for free. With power comes responsibility, and with droopy eyes, come compensation. For shift workers, here’s how payment for work done during a rest day is calculated:

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For managers and executives, your compensation for working on a rest day or holiday comes in off-in-lieu that was mutually arranged. In a circumstance where there wasn’t any agreement, your employers can decide on these options:

  1. Add an extra day’s salary for that month
  2. Grant a full day off in lieu for work done beyond four hours
  3. Grant four hours of time off in lieu for four hours (or less) of work done

Use this handy guide below to calculate your OT pay if you earn up to $2,500 for PMEs, and up to $4,500 for workmen.

first job rights thesmartlocal

Read more on the law here.

8. You can’t work more than 12 hours a day

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Even OT-ing has limits so pack your bags at the 12th working hour immediately because it spells trouble for your company if you don’t. At maximum, you’re only allowed to clock in 72 overtime hours a month.

If you work beyond half a day (or more than 72 hours a month), your company needs to get an exemption issued by the Ministry Of Manpower. Don’t get your company in trouble for working too much. For your job’s sake, go home!

Read more here.

9. MC does not equal no-pay leave

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Remember when you were able to skip classes by producing a letter written by your parents? How we miss those times. It’s not easy to ponteng a work day because you’re required to submit an MC – which costs money.

But here’s the important part about that medical certification – it’s proof that you were unfit for work through circumstances out of your control so your absence should be paid for. Do note that can only get paid sick leave after you’ve worked for at least three months.

If you’re hospitalised:

Guidelines for paid hospitalisation leave depends on how long you’ve been working in the company. After six months, you’re entitled to 60 days. However, you do not need to be warded to claim hospitalisation leave – as long as you’re certified by the doctor.

Read more here.

10. You may get retrenched, with little or no retrenchment benefits

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It’s been in the news lately that workers below 30 years old have been getting retrenched!

So although “retrenchment” feels like a word associated with our parents’ generation, this is something you should be aware of: retrenchment benefits are NOT mandatory by law, especially if your company doesn’t have a union. This means you can be asked to leave the company at any time, without a “safety net”.

first job rights thesmartlocal

It’s not a matter of how “branded” our degree is anymore, but whether we can survive the new jobscape, where you need to  ‘learn, work, learn, work, learn, work and retire’. If your contract doesn’t have a retrenchment benefits component, ask your boss about one or look into joining a union that will ensure your rights.

11. You are free to form a union in the company you are employed in

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Most people would have heard of the term ‘trade union’ being thrown around in conversations often but explanations are hard to come by. So here’s what you need to know about unions in a nutshell and why they matter to you:

A trade union is an association of workers meant to promote good relations between employers and employees. Since your bosses are not as aware as you are of your daily experiences, only workers like you understand the operations on the ground.

Rallying together as a union ensures that your welfare is taken into account and that your voice gets heard. Think of unions as being parents caring for you – they are around to ensure your needs are accounted for!

If you’re considering unionising your company, check with NTUC first if your company is already registered with a union. If not, there are existing trade unions which can help you unionise your company.

first job rights thesmartlocal

Read more about trade unions do for members here.

Start your career on the right foot

With a good grasp of your rights as an employee of the company, the decisions you make become less wishy-washy. Signing along the line won’t open up Pandora’s boxes of worry that you’ll have to lug around, and the confidence gained will ensure you start your career on the right track. Besides, with the laws and guidelines that surround employment, your rights are safely guarded.

Discussion with NTUC on how unions help working people in Singapore

For those with an existing unions in your industries, find out more about them! Veterans have been through what you’re going through and can advise you better. If you aren’t sure which union covers you, you can check here.

Apart from gaining a strong support base, you’ll also join events to polish up your resume, rally support from your colleagues, and gain invaluable mentors.

NTUC’s Director Of Industrial Relations (Ms Cham Hui Fong, centre) and two Industrial Relations Officers sharing workplace tips 

For unions, NTUC’s Industrial Relations Officers play a pivotal role in building communications with the company’s management executives (AKA the big bosses) to help workers resolve grievances and have better working conditions.

Their 3-way partnership (AKA tripartite) involving the unions, employers and the government itself is key to ensuring that your rights as an employee of your company is protected.

There is also a Labour Court (called the Industrial Arbitration Court) where the unions can escalate unresolved issues between workers and management if mediation fails.

first job rights thesmartlocal

Contrary to Jessie J, it’s not all about the money. With the awareness of employment rights firmly etched in your skillset, you can look forward to a secured job and a confident worklife – two things that makes #careergoals true for every fresh grad!

This post was brought to you by the National Trades Union Congress to help young workers know how unions can protect their workplace rights and improve working conditions.

Poll: Joining a union gives me better workplace protection