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Statutory Constructive Dismissal in Singapore

Discrimination and prejudice are painful things to experience, and it can come in many different forms.  What happens if such discrimination and prejudice happen to you at your workplace? You may be ostracised at work by your superiors, or your salary withheld for vague reasons or may have your benefits and entitlements deprived.

In Singapore, employers may generally terminate employees at will, and there is no legal obligation on the employer to give the reasons for termination to the employee. However, that does not mean that you cannot have a claim against your employer.

Due to changes in the Employment Act, the meaning of dismissing now also includes the situation where the employee was forced to resign due to the action or conduct or omission of the employer. This means that the resigning employee can bring a claim for wrongful dismissal under the ground of Statutory Constructive Dismissal.

What is constructive dismissal

Constructive dismissal refers to a situation where an employer has breached the employment agreement with the employee in a manner that would mean the employment agreement can no longer function effectively. It is a serious enough breach that the employee is forced to resign. Therefore, despite the employee being the one who terminates the contract, the employee is considered as having been ‘constructively dismissed’ by the employer.

Proving constructive dismissal

Previously, before the amendments, it is for the employee to prove that:

There was be a breach of a fundamental condition of the employment agreement;

The employee must have accepted the breach;

The breach must have caused the employee to leave his or her employment.

After the amendments, what the employee now needs to prove is similar. The employee needs to show that the resignation was not voluntary but was forced to do so due to the conduct or omission of the employer. This can be in the form of multiple instances of such conduct or omission or a single instance of such conduct or omission.

An illustration is as follows:

A had informed her employer of her pregnancy. She had worked for her employer for four years. The employer did not pay A from when she informed her employer of the pregnancy, removed her from the workflow, and did not pay her maternity benefits stated in the contract. As a result, A resigned from the company.

The scenario envisioned above may be sufficient to constitute a ground constructive dismissal under wrongful dismissal as A was no longer able to perform her function and was not being paid, and her maternity benefits were not paid. A resigned due to these acts.  

What this means is that it is now easier to bring a claim for wrongful dismissal on the ground of statutory constructive dismissal under the Employment Act where the employee chooses to resign rather than wait to be terminated where the employer creates a condition or environment of employment that causes the employee to resign.

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What you can do?

If you have been the subject of such a hostile environment, you may be able to bring a claim for wrongful dismissal under the ground of statutory constructive dismissal under the Employment Act. An employee who was forced to resign can apply for reinstatement or compensation instead of reinstatement.

However, it is crucial bear in mind that if the dismissal were effected with notice or payment instead of notice in accordance with the terms of the employment agreement, even though no reason was given for the dismissal, this dismissal would be presumed not to be wrongful. The employee must be able to prove that the dismissal was wrongful.

When dismissal is not wrongful?

Under the guidelines provided by the Tripartite Guidelines on Wrongful Dismissal (“Tripartite Guidelines”), there are certain scenarios where dismissals are considered legitimate. They are:

Where the employee commits some form of misconduct 

e.g. theft, dishonesty at work, bringing the organisation into disrepute, insubordination; the Tripartite Guidelines further state that misconduct is the only permissible ground for summary dismissal;

The employee performs poorly consistently

i.e. the poor performance is documented in performance reviews, and the employee failed to improve despite reasonable chances to do so; and

Redundancy

e.g. where the employer has excess manpower or the company is undergoing restructuring, or the old job is no longer required.

However, the employer must be able to prove the relevant ground for termination. Therefore, any decision by the employer to terminate the employment agreement must be able to support the decision.

How we can help

Being unfairly treated and pressured into resigning from your employment is a painful experience, but you may have a case of constructive dismissal against your former employer. Our lawyers are experienced in these matters, and if you feel you have been harassed and bullied into resigning, please contact us. We will have a fruitful consultation with you on your available options.

Speak to a lawyer now

CONTACT US TODAY

Our specialised lawyers and their team are standing by to assist you. Our first consultation is free.

The information contained within this website contains general information about our lawyers, Law Firm and procedures and is not intended to constitute legal advice.
Any person viewing or receiving information from this Website should not act or refrain from acting, on the basis of any such information without first seeking appropriate legal advice.
Please consult a lawyer for specific review of your case and advise. 

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