Two retail employers in Singapore, who persistently underpaid their employees despite multiple warnings from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), are now barred from applying for or renewing work passes for foreign workers until they correct the underpayments. According to a statement by MOM on June 6, these employers have been underpaying a total of 12 retail employees by approximately $450 per month each since April 2023.

These cases emerged from inspections conducted by MOM, covering 4,100 retail and food service companies from April 2023 to March 2024. These inspections followed a six-month adjustment period after the Progressive Wage Model (PWM) was introduced in each sector. The PWM, which links wages to training and productivity improvements, has been mandatory for lower-wage retail employees since September 2022 and for food service employees since March 2023.

MOM emphasized that the six-month adjustment period was intended to help employers comply with the new PWM requirements. This period has now concluded for all seven sectors and two occupations under the model, affecting about 155,000 lower-wage workers.

The inspections revealed that while most employers were compliant, some were unfamiliar with PWM requirements. These employers adjusted their practices after MOM’s guidance. The ministry intends to continue enforcing PWM compliance through regular workplace inspections and audits, requiring employers to submit employment documents for review.

Additionally, MOM plans to collaborate with the labor movement, employers, and public agencies overseeing PWM sectors—such as the Building and Construction Authority, National Environment Agency, National Parks Board, and Singapore Police Force—to ensure employers meet their PWM obligations and pay workers fair wages.

The PWM was first implemented in the cleaning sector in September 2014 and later extended to the security and landscaping sectors in 2016, and the lift and escalator maintenance sector in May 2019. The retail sector was included subsequently, followed by in-house cleaning, security, and landscaping workers in September 2022.

Employers must pay local workers at least a qualifying salary to hire foreign workers. This salary is currently set at a gross monthly $1,400 for full-time workers and at least $9 an hour for part-time workers, increasing to $1,600 per month and $10.50 per hour, respectively, on July 1, 2024. Progressive wages were also extended to administrators and drivers in March 2023 and to the waste management sector in July 2023.


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The editorial team at Singapore Employment Agency


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