- Sunway Employment Pte Ltd (“Sunway”), an employment agency (EA), was convicted today of entering into new placement agreements with new clients while under a suspension order imposed by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM)1. The suspension order was imposed on Sunway while it was under investigation for an illegal employment offence. It is the first EA to be convicted of such an offence since the revised Employment Agencies Act (EAA) came into effect in April 2011, which saw the penalties for this offence increased to $80,0002.
- Sunway pleaded guilty in the Subordinate Courts to the charge under section 12(1) of the EAA, and was fined $30,000. In addition, it pleaded guilty to a separate charge under Section 5(1) of the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act of illegally employing a foreigner without a valid work pass, and was fined $2,500. In total, Sunway was sentenced to a total fine of $32,500 by the Courts for the two charges.
Facts of the Case
- Despite being fully aware of the restrictions3 under the suspension order MOM imposed with effect from 22 May 2013, Sunway continued to enter into new placement agreements with three new clients on 17 June 2013, 22 June 2013 and 1 July 2013 respectively. MOM uncovered these breaches through an audit conducted on the EA.
- As the suspension order prohibits the EA from using MOM’s Work Pass On-Line (WPOL) system to submit work pass applications electronically, Sunway circumvented the system by using the SingPass password of its two new clients to submit online work pass applications. For the third client, Sunway submitted a manual work pass application at the MOM Services Centre. Sunway received a total of $5,522 as placement fees from its three new clients.
- Sunway also continued to actively recruit new Foreign Domestic Workers (FDW) to meet the demands of its clients while it was under the suspension order.
- Separately, Sunway was also convicted for illegally employing a foreigner who held an FDW work permit to perform cleaning and administrative duties such as photocopying, delivering files and collecting medical examination reports from 6 June to 9 July 2012 for its EA business.
Need for EAs to Uphold Professional Standards
- Commenting on this first prosecution case against an EA that was on suspension, Mr Kevin Teoh, MOM’s Commissioner for Employment Agencies, said, “We expect all licensed EAs to operate with a high level of integrity and professionalism. They should comply with the laws governing the EAs. In this case, the EA’s blatant disregard of the suspension order is a wilful act of defiance. It is also surprising that the EA, despite being well aware of the rules governing the employment of foreign workers, also chose to hire a foreigner without a valid work pass. We will continue to intensify our checks on EAs, and will not hesitate to take enforcement action against those that choose to break the law.”
Advisory from MOM
- The public are advised to use only MOM-licensed employment agents and refer to the online EA Directory to check that the EA they wish to engage is not under suspension. Members of the public who are aware of any individuals or EAs that are operating without a licence or under suspension, or have concerns with any EA that they are dealing with should contact MOM at Tel: (65) 6438 5122 or email email@example.com. All information will be kept strictly confidential.
1 The suspension order forbids the EA to enter into new recruitment or placement agreements with new clients.
2 The penalty for a similar offence under the EAA before April 2011 was a maximum of $1,000.
3 Under the EAA, EAs under suspension may continue to carry on the employment agency or perform any work or activity only with existing clients. EAs that disregard suspension orders shall be liable upon conviction to a fine up to $80,000, and / or imprisonment of up to two years. In addition, the errant EA will have the licence suspended and revoked, and will be barred from operating as an EA in future.