With growing concerns about the threat of terrorism, security officers in Singapore play an increasingly important role as the industry continues to expand and grow exponentially with more stakeholders involved. The security industry continually undergoes a digital transformation process to allow the industry to stay relevant and contribute to the development of best practices in facing future challenges.
An employment relationship usually involves a service buyer, an agency, and the security personnel (service provider). The protection of security personnel falls under the Employment Act. However, if the employee is in an administrative, executive, or in a confidential position, the Employment Act is not applicable, and they should refer to their employment contract.
In the past, security officers typically work for extended hours in Singapore, with many security agencies requiring them to work more than 12 hours six days a week. This translates to an average of 95 hours of overtime per month. According to the Security Tripartite Cluster, under the progressive wage model (PWM) for the security industry, the average of 95 hours of overtime for a security worker is above the limit of 72 hours per month required by the Employment Act.
Due to the labour crunch and operational needs, an overtime exemption (OTE) was issued by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) to allow for agencies to better respond to emergencies or complete time-sensitive projects and operational needs. However, most security agencies have shifted their operations to abide by the 72-hour limit by 2021.
The Employment Act regulates the provision of non-working days and holidays and sets limits for overtime work. Working hours, including overtime, may not exceed 12 hours per day and overtime may not exceed 72 hours per month. Article 41A of the Employment Act gives the Commissioner the flexibility to exempt companies from these requirements after assessing the companies’ business requirements, as well as workplace safety and the interests of employees.
If the employer requires employees to work more than 12 hours a day (maximum 14 hours) or more than 72 hours overtime per month, they must apply to the Ministry of Manpower for an exemption (OTE). OTEs are usually provided by companies only for an unexpectedly short period of time business needs. The main exception is the security industry, which the Tripartite Commission is working to make better use of technology for improving efficiency in manpower talents. The security sector includes the nature of transmission patterns security staff work 12-hour shifts and limit 72 hours of overtime per month.
In November 2017, the Security Tripartite Cluster issued a report on recommended improvements to the Progressive Wage Model (PWM) for the security industry and the elimination of OTE on January 1, 2021. The recommendations were accepted by the government. Between 2017 and 2018, the number of licensed security agencies requesting 72-hour OTE decreased by approximately 23%, from 174 in 2017 to 134 in 2018. Some companies employ 5.5 or 6 days to 5 business days a week to avoid relying too much on OTE. The removal of OTE will help improve the working conditions of security staff and support the provision of a more efficient workforce and technological security services. Thereafter, all exemptions will be granted on a case-by-case basis only to meet short-term needs at the discretion of the Ministry of Manpower.
While such exemptions give companies flexibility, there are safeguards to ensure that security officers’ interests are well protected. First, employers must obtain written permission for exemptions from all affected workers. Second, requests from employers who have violated Employment Act in the past and from poor workplace safety records will be rejected. Third, unions should agree to exceptions if possible. Finally, for safety reasons, no overtime exemptions are granted for high-risk occupations, such as those with heavy machinery.
MOM stated that in addition to enforcing such violations, it educates companies and employees about their responsibilities and labour rights through their Workright inspections and roadshows. Legally, security agencies cannot deploy their security officers on shifts longer than 12 hours, but security officers can work for up to two employers. While most security personnel work for only one security agency, others work part-time or ad hoc, for example at events.
For all types of employment, a contract of service is required, which forms the foundation of the working relationship between an employer and an employee. This can be a written letter of employment.
The contract is considered breached if the security agency does not pay the salary within 7 days after salary is due to the employee or if the employee is continuously absent from work for more than 2 working days without permission or serious reason.
Salary means all wages, including fees that must be paid to employees for work performed under a contract. It works does not contain:
a) quality of the house accommodation, water, medical attendance or other amenities;
(b) CPF contributions paid by the employer;
(c) travel or transport costs;
(d) reimbursement of special expenses incurred in the course in duty;
(e) disbursed redundancy costs or pensions.
f) retrenchment benefit.
Wages to be paid are subject to negotiation and mutual agreement between the employer and the employee or trade union representing the employee if any.
If your employment contract has expired, and if you have performed the service within the required notice period, the employee must be paid his full salary on the last working day. If he leaves his job without notice or does not work the required notice, his salary must be paid within 7 days of the last working day.
As of October 14, 2021, 2 private security agencies were already prosecuted for requiring their security staff to work overtime in violation of Employment Act law. The Ministry of Manpower carried out enforcement operations which showed that security employees from both companies worked back-to-back shifts between February and March 2021 several times.
As security employees, one should note that the MOM is committed to protecting the well-being of all workers. Anyone with information on infringement should report the matter to MOM.